Kelly Lasiter

On FanLit’s staff since July 2008

KELLY LASITER is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves, guarded by a ruthless hellhound. (All right, so her manners aren’t always mild and the hellhound is actually quite friendly, but the shelves do totter.)

Kelly came late to the fantasy genre, wandering into its enchanted lands nearly by accident in her early twenties, by way of Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin and the suggested reading list provided in the back by Terri Windling. She is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck.

Her pet peeves include atrocious grammar, protagonists that are either impossibly perfect or insufferably nasty, being beaten over the head with a moral, and books in which female characters are absent or cardboard. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

Fates: Too many of the usual YA tropes, but lots of potential

Fates by Lanie Bross

Vampires are everywhere in teen fiction, but recently some authors have ventured outside fangland and explored a more diverse assortment of supernatural beings. And so we have Fates by Lanie Bross, a novel about, well, Fates. I was a little sad when I realized Bross’s Fates didn’t bear much resemblance to the Greek Fates, just because I’m a sucker for classical mythology, but nonetheless I was eager to see what Bross did with the concept. The gorgeous cover art didn’t hurt a bit either.

The two central characters are fine, in and of themselves. The heroine, Corinthe, was once a Fate and lived in the ethereal world of Pyralis, where she and her sister Fates were responsible for making sure people’s destines played out like they were supposed to. But Corinthe made a mistake, and for that was banished from Pyralis and is now living in Humana (Earth). She looks like a human teenager but still has a job... Read More

Mistress of the Wind: Good if you’re into fairy tale retellings

Mistress of the Wind by Michelle Diener

“East of the Sun, West of the Moon” is a Scandinavian fairy tale that’s a bit like “Beauty and the Beast,” and even more like “Cupid and Psyche.” It’s full of striking imagery but has always inspired a bit of ambivalence in me — I love that the girl goes on an epic journey to rescue the guy, but I’m always a smidgen irked that she wins him by doing laundry better than her rival! In recent years, a number of authors have turned their hands to retelling the story in novel form, expanding the plot and focusing on different aspects of the tale, with varying results.

Mistress of the Wind is a new retelling by Michelle Diener, who has written several historical novels before entering fairy-tale land. It’s billed as “New Adult,” that new fiction category that focuses on protagonists of roughly college age and is often steamier than traditional Young Adult fiction. In th... Read More

Daughters of the Nile: Poignant and beautiful

Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Daughters of the Nile
concludes Stephanie Dray’s trilogy about Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra, who survived the fall of her mother’s kingdom and went on to become a queen herself. I’ve never been quite sure how to categorize this series — is it fantasy? is it historical fiction with magic realism? — but I’ve certainly been enjoying it.

In Lily of the Nile, we saw Selene as a young girl coming of age; in Song of the Nile we saw her dealing with the issues of young womanhood in addition to the precarious political situation in which she lived. In this third volume, we follow Selene as a mature married ruler with children. She and her husband, King Juba, have taken tentative steps toward making their marriage a true partnership as well as a political alliance, but the relationship has been poisoned with old hurts and mistrust for a long time, and eac... Read More

Sorrow’s Knot: Exceeds high expectations

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

Sorrow’s Knot had some big footsteps in which to follow, since Erin Bow’s debut novel Plain Kate was pretty terrific. But I’m pleased to report that Sorrow’s Knot not only lived up to my expectations but exceeded them. This is a fantastic novel, and better than Plain Kate.

Sorrow’s Knot is set in a world that feels a lot like the Pacific Northwest, and draws from (without copying anyone or anything in particular) Native American cultures. The heroine, Otter, is growing up in a village that is almost exclusively made up of women. She is the daughter of Willow, the village’s Binder, whose task it is to bind the dead — both figuratively and literally — so that they cannot return in ghostly form to harm the living. But now Willow is going mad, and making cryptic statements about the... Read More

The Incrementalists: An ambitious collaboration

The Incrementalists by Steven Brust & Skyler White

The Incrementalists is collaboration between authors Steven Brust and Skyler White. I was more familiar with White going in, having enjoyed her trippy novels and Falling, Fly and In Dreams Begin. My experience with Brust’s vast catalogue was sadly limited to having read The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars many years ago while obsessively collecting the FAIRY TALE SERIES. In The Incrementalists, Brust and White team up to create a millennia-old secret society dedicated to making the world better... incrementally.

The novel follows two points of view: Phil, a longtime Incrementalist, and Renee (called Ren), whom Phil has selected as a new recruit. Ren accepts, for secret reasons of he... Read More

Conjured: The Sarah Beth Durst book for Laini Taylor fans

Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

I want to live in Sarah Beth Durst’s brain. Every time I turn around, she has a new book out, and it’s completely different from the last one. Her imagination is seemingly boundless. Another thing I appreciate about her books is that they stand alone. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good series as much as the next girl, but there’s also something to be said for a self-contained novel.

Laini Taylor, author of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, provided the front cover blurb for Conjured, and I can’t think of anyone more fitting. I’d call Conjured “the Sarah Beth Durst book for Laini Taylor fans.” In a few of its broad lines (girl in our world who is threatened by secrets from a parallel, dreamlike world), it’s similar to Daughter of Smoke and Bone and will probably appeal to a lo... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Sarah Beth Durst asks “Why do you read?”

We've got Sarah Beth Durst with us today, author of several books we love. I'm currently enjoying her new book, Conjured, which will be released next week. Sarah's got a fundamentally important question for you. One commenter will win a copy of Conjured. Thanks for visiting, Sarah!



So here's something I've been thinking about a lot lately... Why do people read?

I have my big-picture generic answer, of course: we read because we need stories as desperately as we need air, food, and water. Stories are how we process, cope with, and/or escape from the world. Whether they're told by friends, inside books, on TV, or whatever, they're how we connect with other people, understand our past, and prepare for the future.

Plus, they're awesome.

But on an individual level... Why do people read?
Read More

Infinity: Emotionally moving

Infinity by Rachel Ward

Infinity, by Rachel Ward, concludes the series that began with Numbers and peaked in The Chaos. It’s a few years after the apocalypse that devastated England in that second book. Adam and Sarah are living a nomadic lifestyle with Sarah’s two younger brothers and her daughter Mia. Adam isn’t comfortable around people because of his special ability and easily recognizable face, but Sarah is pregnant again and would really like to settle down.

As this conflict arises between the two, an external threat appears. Infinity takes a dystopian tone; men from the government want to use Adam’s power for the rebuilding effort, and they are not inclined to take no for an answer.

Infinity is a slim novel with only one major conflict, and feels kind of like a “bonus novella” rather than a full installment in the series, but it does give satisfactory cl... Read More

The Goddess Inheritance: Did Not Finish

The Goddess Inheritance by Aimée Carter

Aimée Carter’s GODDESS TEST series has always been a bumpy ride for me, with its sometimes baffling take on Greek mythology and its focus on petty bickering even in the face of potential worldwide catastrophe. Yet I always felt there was enough of a seed of a good story here that I wanted to see how Carter would finish it out, so I decided to read the final book, The Goddess Inheritance. I’ve now gotten a little over halfway through the book and am giving up. I’ve decided I simply don’t care anymore.

We pick up as Kate is on the verge of giving birth in captivity — having been kidnapped by Calliope and Cronus at the end of the last book — and the other gods having just realized she’s actually missing. Then she does give birth, in the most Mary Sue manner one can imagine, i.e. with none of the commonplace annoyances that come with childbirth. Labor only lasts a few mi... Read More

Grail of the Summer Stars: An inventive fantasy world that intersects with our own

Grail of the Summer Stars by Freda Warrington

Grail of the Summer Stars is the third in Freda Warrington’s AETHERIAL TALES series, following Elfland and Midsummer Night. Each novel can stand alone, though they have some overlapping plotlines and characters, such that each novel will be more meaningful and resonant if you’ve read the others. Grail of the Summer Stars has more overlapping elements than either of the two previous books and is connected more strongly to each of them than they are to each other.

Warrington introduces us to Stevie Silverwood, a metalworking artist and museum curator who has always been a little odd, seeing things no one else could see — and whose past before age 15 is a mystery even to herself. Her quiet life is disrupted when her old college sweetheart, Daniel, sends her a triptych of fantastic paintings along with a cryptic note, and goes missin... Read More

The Suburban Strange: Too little too late

The Suburban Strange by Nathan Kotecki

Celia is a high school sophomore who’s grieving the death of her father and starting at a new school. She is swept up into a clique called the Rosary, a group of friends who pride themselves on their “darkness” and their sophistication. Celia feels awkward with them at first but gradually begins to gain confidence from these friendships. Meanwhile, something eerie is going on at Suburban High. Girls are suffering injuries or sudden illnesses on the day before their sixteenth birthdays. Will Celia find out what’s going on before her own birthday rolls around?

The main problem with The Suburban Strange is that the plot doesn’t pick up until well after the 200-page mark. Before that, it’s heavily focused on scenes of Celia and her friends hanging out and talking about music and books. It reminds me of when I was in college and thought all my circle’s late-night conversations were... Read More

An Inquiry Into Love and Death: A good Gothic novel

An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James

I enjoy a good Gothic novel, and I was intrigued by An Inquiry Into Love and Death as soon as I first heard about it. After reading it, I can report that it is indeed a good Gothic novel, and fans of the genre should definitely check it out.

Jillian Leigh’s life as an Oxford student is interrupted when her uncle Toby dies in a fall from a cliff in the remote village of Rothewell. With Jillian’s parents out of the country, settling Toby’s affairs falls to Jillian.

Toby was a ghost hunter and had traveled to Rothewell to investigate the ghost of a smuggler, Walking John, who is reputed to haunt the village. His death is a mystery. Did he fall by accident? Did he commit suicide? Or was he murdered? Jillian’s inquiries in Rothewell uncover mysteries both mundane and supernatural in this spooky, twisty novel.

Jillian is a quirky, endearing charac... Read More

Deep Down: Coates has a great knack for character

Deep Down by Deborah Coates

Hallie Michaels is back in civilian life for good, but she’s not sure yet what she wants to do with that life, and she’s loath to be tied down to any one option. An old Army friend offers her a job that would take her away from her small South Dakota hometown again. She’s tempted to take it, but when she checks on her elderly neighbor Pabby Pabahar at her father’s request, Hallie discovers a mystery that may keep her in town for a while.

Pabby’s property is surrounded by black dogs that no one but Pabby and Hallie can see. The dogs, as it turns out, are harbingers of death; they appear when someone’s “time” approaches. What’s really weird is that Pabby knows it’s not her time. Her mother was psychic and predicted Pabby’s date of death — still some years in the future.

Death omens showing up at the wrong time turn out to be the tip of the iceberg. Hallie discovers even... Read More

Edge: Jenny Davidson’s “The Magic Circle”

The Magic Circle by Jenny Davidson

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

The Magic Circle by Jenny Davidson is the story of three young women in academia, all of whom become involved in a particular type of game that combines urban exploration with LARPing (live-action role-playing). Logical Ruth is primarily interested in games as teaching tools. Anna, a more right-brained sort, prefers visceral games that effect a psychological transformation on their players. Their more reserved friend Lucy is along for the ride. The novel is primarily narrated by Ruth and Lucy, with occasional Internet posts from Anna interspersed.

The novel begins slo... Read More

House Rules: Did Not Finish

House Rules by Chloe Neill

Chloe Neill’s CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRES novels have been brain-candy reading for me for a few years now. The books are quick reads that don’t require a lot of thinking but provide action, romance, humor, and occasional pathos. But, sad to say, I think I’m breaking up with this series.

I had high hopes at the beginning of this seventh book, House Rules. Neill introduces a mystery: two rogue vampires have gone missing, last seen at one of the vampire registration offices the new mayor has set up. In the other main plot, Cadogan House has voted to secede from the Greenwich Presidium, and that would surely shake things up a bit.

The series, however, has fallen into the same trap that Neill’s DARK ELITE series did for me. The plot often seems secondary to immature bickering among the characters. It’s not funny enough to work as comic relief; it’s just sniping. An example ... Read More

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