Lish McBride

Books: Fantasy | YA | Romance | Queer

Necromancer: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, (2010), Necromancer: A Novella (2011), Necromancing the Stone (2012), Freaks & Other Family (2016)

Firebug: Burnt Sugar (2014), Firebug (2014), Pyromantic (2017)

Uncanny Romance: A Little Too Familiar (2022), Rough Around the Hedges (2023)


Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (2010)

Sam can't decide what to do with himself, which means that by default he has fallen to the painful default of food service. His life is going nowhere, he's job is crap, but he has friends, and friends can make anything easier. Even drawing the attention of a very scary man and his even scarier minions.

This is a fabulous young adult book. There is boinking, but it's off screen (so to speak) and shouldn't keep this book from young adult users.

The story is very good, but what I liked best was Sam's relationship with his friends, and his recognition that friends are there to help you when you need it. It's nice to read about teens/young adults with strong friendships. Sure, there's angst, but it's hard to be too angsty if you have a best friend to kick you in the butt when you get too full of yourself.

I read this because I had downloaded and read Necromancer: A Novella (free! it was free!) and enjoyed the writing and characters. (Let that be a lesson to you, publishers. I most likely would never have bought this book if I hadn't read the free novella. But I enjoyed the novella so much I wanted to read more books by the author.)

There is, quite obviously, going to be a sequel, but for the most part the story arc was resolved, and I want to read the next book not because of any unresolved bits, but because I enjoyed the characters and writing.

If you think a story about a boy becoming a necromancer might be at all interesting to you, I highly recommend reading "Necromancer: A Novella" because if you enjoy that, you'll certainly enjoy Hold Me Closer, Necromancer.

Published by Henry Holt and Co

October 2011 | Rating: 8/10

Necromancer: A Novella (2011)

One of the things I'm coming to adore about the Kindle (and there are many) is authors can put up short stories and novellas–for free!–to give you an introduction to their work. Which is how I ended up downloading "Necromancer: A Novella" because who is opposed to a free short story? (Not me!)

Necromancer is associated with the book "Hold Me Closer, Necromancer" and a good introduction to the author's writing and world. It is also A COMPLETE SHORT STORY! WOOT!

Let me say that one more time: IT IS A SELF-SUFFICIENT SHORT STORY! Lish McBride, I may love you.

Here's the thing, a lot of these "short stories" are little more than teaser chapters or stories for existing books.

That does not make me want to read more by the author. That annoys me.

Necromancer, however, is a complete short story about Matt and Ash. Matt is a loner teen and Ash was his best friend for years. Until she died. And later came back as one of the incarnations of death. But although this story contains death, it is more about the characters, their past, and their relationship.

And it is very well done.

No, I did not immediately purchase "Hold Me Closer, Necromancer" but that is only because my TBR pile has gotten out of control again. But once I get it pared down, I am definitely going to get it.

May 2011 | Rating: 8.5/10

Necromancing the Stone (2012)

This is a sequel to the YA book, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, which I really liked.

Luckily, I like Necromancing the Stone just as well.

Sam LaCroix is still trying to adjust to being a necromancer. And to having a position on the local Council, because he killed Douglas, the evil necromancer who tried to kill him and now sort-of-girlfriend Brid. He also feels guilty because Ramon, his best friend, is now a were-bear, solely because Ramon was injured while trying to help Sam.

Although, like the last book, there is an acknowledgment that Sam in Brid are boinking, this is not a kissing book. This is a supernatural fantasy that recognizes that teenagers often boink.

Like the first book, important people die (and they should, I mean, this IS a book about a necromancer), and like the first book, I think this issue is dealt with very well. People die. It really really sucks. But like it or not, life has to go on.

But I think what made this book especially good was how it dealt with Douglas, the evil necromancer who Sam killed in self-defense in the first book. Sam (who is a vegetarian) is still struggling with the fact that he took someone's life. I think that is a really important part of both Sam and the book.

Not to rant, but in many movies, someone kills in self-defense and they're over it and okay with it. My understanding is this is NOT how it happens in real life. Taking another life is hard, and it's nothing someone just does and moves past.

Well, normal people anyway.

So like the first book, I highly recommend this one. There are plenty of openings for another Sam story, but if there isn't, I'm okay with the way this book ended. Which is always a good thing.

Necromancer, a Novella is still available for free as a Kindle download, so if you think you're interested, download the novella.

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

October 2012 | Rating: 8.5/10

Freaks & Other Family (2016)

You Make Me Feel So Young  Halfway Through the Wood

This collection is two stories about the characters from Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, Sam and Ramon. Sam is now a necromancer. Ramon is now a were-bear. Luckily, Sam's inheritance also included a house and money, so he's able to help Sam with some of the issues that came from the change.

You Make Me Feel So Young finds Sam and Ramon attempting to discover who or what is leaving desiccated corpses around town.

Strange human remains had been discovered— and by strange I mean that we'd found thin, dry husks and nothing else. All that had been left was skin, like people had started spontaneously molting.

It's also about how much Sam has not yet learned about what he can do.

The second story, Halfway Through the Wood, is about Ramon and how things have changed with his family after his change (since he can't tell them what happened).

Which is difficult, because his family is very close.

I followed them deeper into the house, which was full to bursting with family and friends that had earned that status. My family has been known to rope in people who we've decided need food and family or those that simply can't run away fast enough.

Ramon's problems are not of the supernatural nature, but they are still serious problems–especially since Ramon still feels he has to protect his mother and sisters.

One of the things I like about Lish McBride's writing is that it's evocative AND fun. For example:

There was a sound then, like the death rattle of a milkshake when you've sucked up the last of the ice cream with the straw and start pulling in air.

And her characters are very well-depicted young adults: they make mistakes because they lack experience, but they aren't stupid, so they don't make the same mistakes twice.

If you haven't read Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, don't start here. Get Necromancer: A Novella, which is free, and which is what got me to read the first. It's free, so you've got nothing to lose. But these two stories were a nice reminder of why I liked Sam and Ramon so much.

Publisher: Devo-Lish

May 2018 | Rating: 8/10


Burnt Sugar (2014)

Ava, Lock, and Ezra have been sent by the Coterie (magical mafia) to collect a tithe from a witch who has missed payment.

But when the find a gingerbread house, they know things are more serious than they expected.

Lock stopped and crossed his arms, giving us a look that Ez and I knew well.

"Did we forget to do our homework?" Ezra whispered in my ear.

"Neither of you read the file, did you?" Lock said accusingly.

"I skimmed it." I said. "Something about collecting money, blah blah blah." "

I looked at the pictures," Ezra added.

"There weren't any pictures."

I've had Firebug on my wishlist for two years, but it hasn't dropped in price, so I haven't picked it up.

I really should, because this is a short story with the character from Firebug, and its (of course) fun and good.

In the end, we decided I should approach the house alone. I looked the least threatening and I was the youngest— people don't put up their guard for young teenage girls the same way they would for the boys. It didn't matter that, out of the three of us, I was the most dangerous. The important thing was that I didn't look it.

This story is set in the same world as her Necromancer series, but (at least in this story) none of the characters from there make an appearance.

I did enjoy this, and now I really want to read Firebug.

Published by Tor

January 2017 | Rating: 7.5/10

Firebug (2014)

I have this thing where if I really love an author, I sometimes have difficulty starting a book in a new series. Because I'm afraid the new book won't live up to my expectations of the other books I've read, so I keep putting off reading it.

Lish McBride fell into that category. I loved the Hold Me Closer, Necromancer series, and so when a new parallel series started I wanted the book immediately, but… didn't want to read it.

Silly Michelle.

Ava is a firebug–a firestarter–but is trapped into a contract with the Coterie (think supernatural mob) as an enforcer, made to keep the one person she cares about safe from harm. But now she has new friends, and Venus (head of the Coterie) has more things with which to threaten her, and she is trapped into a contract she can't escape but won't fulfill.

I was chattel to Venus, queen of the manor and head of the Coterie. Lock and Ezra at least had the illusion of hope. Since they were tithes, their blood pacts were over at age twenty-five. They donated a few years of service to the Coterie, and Venus left their families alone. My contract only ended with death— mine or Venus's.

Ava is your typical snarky teen, and delightful and complicated.

Duncan nudged a pot of jam closer to me. "To go with your butter," he said.

I slathered my biscuit with jam. "Do you hear that cheering? That's all the cholesterol in my arteries welcoming their new friends, butter and sugar. Yaaay, new friends."

My immediate response wasn't just no, it was hell, no. Extreme no. No ad infinitum, ad nauseam, with trained No! dancers doing a routine in sequins on top.

But it's also supernatural fantasy, which means it has all kinds of interesting creatures, like Baba Yaga's hut (a personal favorite).

Then we tracked it by the giant mounds of chicken poo. Lock stopped at one big pile with what was clearly a beanstalk growing out of it.

"The moron is feeding it magic beans."

"He's afraid," I said. Lock squeezed my hand. Fear of the Coterie, of Venus, was something we both knew well.

"You're going to have to burn these," he said after we'd had our moment. "They're an invasive species."

I also like that as a YA book, there are bits scattered here and there that are thoughtful and useful but not overdone.

(W)hen you drink a lot, things tend to come out. I've seen drunk girls throw themselves at guys they wouldn't normally give the time of day to, cry over ancient troubles, and generally place themselves in dangerous situations with questionable people. I've seen drunk guys act just as bad. This is not to say every drunk person I've ever seen is a train wreck, but when you mix a depressant with hormone-crazed kids who are already depressed most of the time, the mess gets worse.

That's spot-on for the character, but also an interesting point to give to teens.

It's also realistic in important ways.

Please. Let us make it out. Let me have this. I wanted those boats just as full when we left as when we arrived.

But even as I prayed I knew it wouldn't happen. Coups were bought with blood. And no whispered entreaty to nameless deities would change that.

That's a nice touch.

So of course it was good and of course I highly recommend it. Now I just have to watch for a price drop on the sequel.

Published by Macmillan

September 2017 | Rating: 8.5/10

Pyromantic (2017)

The sequel to Firebug is set a few months after those events.

Ava and Cade are adjusting to their changed relationship, and also rebuilding Cade's bookstore, which was burned down amidst everything else. Luckily, the head of the new Coterie believes that the incident was a Coterie incident, so he's adding to the insurance money to help them rebuild.

Despite all this, Ave still can't quite trust Alistair, because she was raised to believe the Coterie was evil, and her time working for Venus only reinforced that.

We have to be ruthless, yes, but it's to protect the people who belong to us. As long as we're doing that, we're not going to be like them."

Like her other books, the characters and the dialog are the icing on the cake of this story.

Elias and Luke were hiding out in an old warehouse down by the water that was so derelict, it should have had a sign out front that said CREEPY BAD GUYS LIVE HERE.

Nothing good oozes— slugs, businessmen, infected sores. Things like flowers, kittens, and adorable ponies hardly ooze at all.

In addition to Lock and Ezra, Ava has become friends with the drove, and is working with several of its members, most of whom are just as snide and sarcastic as Ava.

I climbed off the bike, barely able to pry the helmet off my head, my fingers were shaking so bad. "Let's never do that again."

"Agreed. Would you think less of me if I vomited over by that car?"

"I couldn't possibly think less of you than I already do."

"Will you hold my hair? I don't want to get any puke on it. There might be some lovely ladies in there, and I'm not really into the kind who can sign off on puke hair."

Of course, it's not all snark and games, serious things happen, and those serious things aren't ignored or swept under the rug.

Don't let anyone tell you how your grief should run. It's yours. It takes as long as it takes. I think rushing it can be just as wrong as letting it linger.

I do love Lish McBride's writing. And now I want to go back and re-read Hold Me Closer, Necromancer.

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

October 2018 | Rating: 9/10

Uncanny Romance

A Little Too Familiar (2022)

A Little Too FamiliarDeclan needs to get away. His sister has fallen in love with his ex-girlfriend, and since they were all living together, it's mighty uncomfortable. So he's leaving Portland for Seattle.

Even after a century and a half of being in the open, the Uncanny still made some humans nervous.

The invention of the camera pretty much did us in. Magic users showed up funny in the first photographs. Turns out you can see our auras. Imagine expecting a sepia-tinted photo with stiff-looking people and getting a wash of color instead. Digital cameras don't have the same issue, but I've seen some of the old photos online and they're pretty wild.

Lou is working hard to put her gifts as an animal mage to the best use she can imagine–helping mages and familiars bond. She's also having a rough day.

I reached out with my magic, making sure to inject soothing warmth into my mental voice. Hello, little one. What's your name?

The phoenix perked up, proudly ruffling its baby feathers, making him look like a little fluff-ball of fire. As he got older, he'd shift into a mix of blues and purples, only staying red on the edges. I am called Dammit.

So she isn't up to dealing with the new housemate–who completely freaks out when she comes into the house.

But they get things straightened out, and the house settles down.

By the time I heard Trick's boots clumping up the stairs, I was two seconds away from chewing on the furniture. Metaphorically. Technically, I could shift and chew on the coffee table, but I had manners.

Until Declan's past shows up to disrupt everything–and to try and kill Declan.

This story was darker than I was expecting. Declan and his siblings escaped an abusive family (so abusive that the adults ended up in jail) and this affects everything Declan thinks and feels.

He knows when he is reacting rather than acting, but that doesn't mean those bits aren't difficult.

The fun thing about trauma was that sometimes you thought it had gone away, only to hit a little road bump and have it punch you right in the face.

Despite the darkness (or perhaps because of it) this book perfectly fit the mood I've been in, and since I was able to completely skip all the boinking bits, I quite enjoyed it.

Publisher: Devo-Lish.

Cover design & illustration: Jenny Zemanek

January 2023 | Rating: 8.5/10

Rough Around the Hedges (2023)

Rough Around the HedgesVanessa Woodbridge and her sister defied their father–and paid the price when both were cut off.

But Vanessa wants to go to school, but to do so she needs her father to verify her education–since she and her sister were both home schooled.

He sighed. "You know, Vanessa, I'm not the villain here. This estrangement between us—you and Juliet—it pains me." He placed a hand over where his heart should be. I had no evidence that an actual organ resided there.

He is vile.

Will Murphy is an arcane piercer and works in a tattoo shop owned by one of his best friends. He goes to book club with his grandmother and everything in his life is good–except that he's in love with he best friend and won't do anything about it.

And that, gentlefolk, was my nana. No subject was taboo, and when I'd edged into puberty, my education had been thorough. Nana signed me up for a class through the library, got me books, and made me watch a few educational videos. I had no idea what she'd done for my half-siblings. I guess she'd assumed their parents would handle it…though I'm sure she sent books. Nana thinks most problems can be solved with books. I'm not sure she's wrong.

I identified a bit too much with Vanessa.

I'd spent most of my life learning to gag that voice. I knew it was cruel and cutting. It didn't do me any favors. But still it whispered pure poison in my ear in my weakest moments. It was the voice of bad decisions and poor choices.

This was the problem with dealing with my father. A conversation was never just a conversation. I had to filter everything for subtext, tone, motivation. It was exhausting.

The thing about being around my father was that even when he wasn't actively doing anything terrible, you were still waiting for him to do so at any minute. Being constantly alert like that was exhausting.

Just because you're used to something doesn't mean it's okay.

It was one of those moments where I was just so exhausted with myself. Unfortunately, I couldn't take turns being anyone else.

Initially I was not sure I loved how Will and Van worked things out. But having stepped back, I think it did work. Van was overwhelmed with dealing with her father and lacked the bandwidth to deal with her feelings for Will. Will recognized this, and did what he needed to do to protect himself.

Lots of boinking again, but I was easily able to skip it and don't feel like I missed anything important.

Publisher: Devo-Lish.

Cover design & illustration: Jenny Zemanek

January 2023 | Rating: 8/10