Kat Hooper

KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

Philippa Fisher and the Fairy’s Promise: A nice children’s tale about friendship and loyalty

Philippa Fisher and the Fairy's Promise by Liz Kessler

In this sweet conclusion to the PHILIPPA FISHER trilogy from Liz Kessler, Philippa is once again visiting her new friend Robyn, who we met in the previous book, Philippa Fisher and the Dream-Maker’s Daughter. While the girls are investigating some standing stones, Philippa is magically transported to the fairy godmother agency where her best friend and fairy godsister Daisy works. While Philippa’s parents are frantically searching for her, Philippa has learned that her mother is in grave danger. It was illegal for Daisy to give Philippa that information, but the girls are best friends and Daisy feels like she has to warn Philippa. This act of loyalty starts a whole string of unexpected events that change everybody’s lives forever and that, perhaps, may h... Read More

Tokyo Raider: A quick GRIMNOIR fix

Tokyo Raider by Larry Correia

Tokyo Raider is another of Larry Correia’s audio “shorts” in his popular GRIMNOIR CHRONICLES series. There’s not much to these little stories, but they’re hard to resist because they’re narrated by the amazingly awesome Bronson Pinchot and they give fans a little fix while we wait for another GRIMNOIR novel.

A couple of decades have passed since Warbound, and the United States and Japan are not friendly. But that doesn’t stop Japan from asking Joe Sullivan, a heavy, for help in banishing a demon summoned by the Russians to terrorize Tokyo. Joe is the son of Jake Sullivan, the protagonist of the previous GRIMNOIR CHRONICLES books. Joe’s mother is Japanese. The Imperium has built a 12-story high... Read More

Undercity: An underground society with real-world social concerns

Undercity by Catherine Asaro

I’m a sucker for stories that take place underground, so when I saw the cover and title of Catherine Asaro’s new book, Undercity, I knew I had to break my commitment to not start a new series until I’d finished all the other ones first. (For the last seven months I’ve read only books that continue or finish a series I’ve previously started.)

When she was an orphaned child, Major Bhaajan used to live in the dark dirty tunnels under the city of Cries. She was one of the dust rats — the kids who run in packs through the tunnels. They live in poverty, are malnourished, don’t go to school, and have few opportunities. Bhaajan was hard-working and motivated, though. She left the Undercity when she joined the military, and she hoped never to return to Cries. Now, retired from t... Read More

Leviathan: What Would Jack Do?

Leviathan by Jack Campbell

Leviathan is the most recent book in Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET: BEYOND THE FRONTIER series. It wouldn’t make any sense to read Leviathan before reading the ten books that precede it. This review will contain spoilers for the previous books, but not for Leviathan.

At the end of Steadfast, Admiral Blackjack Geary’s fleet had been escorting their new alien friends back to the hypernet gate to their own star system when they discovered a fleet of invisible ships laying waste to a nearby planet. They realized that a virus in their own software made the ships invisible, that the “dark ships” were nearly invulnerable, and that when Geary’s ships engaged them, they seemed to be programmed... Read More

Steadfast: Episodic and teachy, but fun

Steadfast by Jack Campbell

Steadfast is the tenth book in Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET series and the fourth in the BEYOND THE FRONTIER subseries. You really need to read all of the previous nine LOST FLEET books to best enjoy Steadfast. I’ll assume you have. There will be spoilers for previous books in this review.

Steadfast has an episodic and teachy feel. Geary and his crew have several different missions, some more exciting than others, and each seems to give Campbell a chance to speak to something going on in our world today. I agreed with Campbell’s “lessons” more often than not, but I was always aware that the lessons were there and that Campbell was using his story as a platform.

Rec... Read More

Guardian: Trying to get home… again.

Guardian by Jack Campbell

Guardian is the ninth book in Jack Campbell’s LOST FLEET series and the third in the subseries called BEYOND THE FRONTIER. You really need to have read the previous eight books to fully understand the background, so I’ll assume you’re familiar with the series if you’re reading this review.

Admiral Blackjack Geary and his wife Tanya Desjani (captain of the warship Dauntless which is the admiral’s flagship) are once again far from home and trying to get back. Now that the war with the evil Syndicate Empire is supposed to be over, Geary’s fleet has been sent by the Alliance “beyond the frontier” to investigate the first alien species that humans had ever encountered. (It’s a little hard to believe that the Alliance government would... Read More

Philippa Fisher and the Dream-Maker’s Daughter: Another sweet story

Philippa Fisher and the Dream-Maker's Daughter by Liz Kessler

Philippa Fisher and the Dream-Maker's Daughter is the second book in Liz Kessler’s trilogy about Philippa Fisher, a lonely 11 year old girl with eccentric hippie parents. When we met her in the first book, Philippa Fisher and the Fairy Godsister, she had come to the attention of the fairy godmothers because her best friend had recently moved away and she was sad. A young inexperienced fairy named Daisy was assigned to grant Philippa three wishes. Both Philippa and Daisy learned a lot and became best friends. But Daisy had to go back to the fairy organization after the case was over.

Now it’s summer and Philippa and her family are going on vacation. Daisy has been assigned to take care of a girl named Robin whose mother recent... Read More

Carpe Jugulum: DISCWORLD gets dark

Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

Carpe Jugulum (1998) is book 23 in Terry Pratchett’s DISCWORLD series. Like most of his books, this one could stand alone, but it will be most appreciated by those who are familiar with the Discworld and, in this case, Pratchett’s loveable witches — Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick, and Agnes Nitt. I’d advise reading Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, and Maskerade first.

Magrat, who is now queen of Lancre, has just given birth to a princess. Her husband, King Verence, a good natured man who is always reading books to learn how to be a good king, has diplomatically invited some foreigners to the celebration. Unfortunate... Read More

The Chestnut King: A satisfying conclusion

The Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson

In this final installment in N.D. Wilson’s 100 CUPBOARDS fantasy trilogy for children, Henry is living in the world behind the cupboards with his “real” family, but he is still able to get to Kansas to play baseball with his friend Zeke. Henry has a lot on his mind. He’s been having scary visions that seem prophetic and he is worried about the scar that’s growing on his face. It was caused by a drop of the evil witch’s blood and Henry suspects that it will eventually drive him mad and/or give the witch control over him. Henry’s friend Frank the Fat Faery has been disowned by the faeries because he helped Henry break the curse that bound Mordecai.

Henry is happy to be reunited with all the people he loves, and to meet his older brother James who has arrived to see him, but the fami... Read More

Dandelion Fire: Better than predecessor

Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson

Dandelion Fire is the second book in N.D. Wilson’s 100 CUPBOARDS trilogy for children. In the first book, 100 Cupboards, we met Henry, a boy who went to live with his aunt and uncle in Kansas and discovered 100 oddly-shaped doors behind the plaster in his attic bedroom. There are different worlds behind all those doors and toward the end of the book Henry finally gets into one and inadvertently sets free an evil witch queen. I thought this was a great premise, and I liked Henry, but I was disappointed that so little time was spent exploring the other worlds.

At the beginning of Dandelion Fire, Henry is about to be sent home to live with the overprotective but unloving parents who adopted him when he was a baby. He know... Read More

Maskerade: Pratchett does The Phantom of the Opera

Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

Marion and I both read Maskerade around the same time. I listened to Nigel Planer narrate the audio version (he's so good) while Marion read the book in print format. She joins me here as we discuss this DISCWORLD story featuring the witches of Lancre.

Kat: After Magrat Garlick married the king in Lord and Ladies, there were only two real witches in Lancre: Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. This isn’t right; everyone knows you need three witches. Granny realizes that their best prospect for a replacement for Magrat is Agnes, a girl who is known for having a nice personality (which means she’s unattractive). Agnes is full-bodied (to put it nicely), but she knows there’s a skinny girl inside. Unfortunately, that skinny girl has a name... Read More

Straits of Hell: Like WOT on water

Straits of Hell by Taylor Anderson

My reviews for Taylor Anderson’s DESTROYERMEN series are getting shorter and shorter. That’s because, with each book, I have less to say.

Here’s the bottom line: Taylor Anderson has created a wonderful world full of loveable characters. It’s fun just to hang out with them. However, at this point, it feels like that’s all what we’re doing: just hanging out. Sure, there are battles and a bit of personal drama, but it’s all stuff we’ve seen before. In Straits of Hell, book 10, Matthew Reddy and his crew and their allies are once again fighting Don Hernan’s Dominion on one side while they fight the second battle for Grik City on the other. Meanwhile, enemies — including the Japanese — continue to plot and shift alliances. Also, a mysterious new power enters the field. We got a glimpse of them at the end of the last book. Will t... Read More

Soarer’s Choice: Satisfactorily concludes the second COREAN trilogy

Soarer’s Choice by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

The second trilogy in L. E. Modesitt, Jr.’s COREAN CHRONICLES closes with Soarer’s Choice. While this book is better than the previous novel, Cadmian’s Choice, that’s mostly because (1) It closes out this overly-long trilogy and (2) It gives the background that helps explain the world Alucius lives in in the first three COREAN CHRONICLES books, LegaciesDarknesses, and Scepters. (The story of that first trilogy occurs generations after the events in the second trilogy, Alector’s Choice, Cadmian’s Choice and Soarer’s Choice).

Mykel and Dainyl continue to be noble and upright and, consequently, continue to be promoted up their respective ... Read More

Lords and Ladies: Pratchett does A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

“If cats looked like frogs, we’d realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That’s what people remember. They remember the glamour.”

In Lords and Ladies, Terry Pratchett’s fourteenth DISCWORLD novel, we get to see what happened to the land of Lancre after Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick stirred things up and changed its fate in Wyrd Sisters. You don’t need to read Wyrd Sisters first to enjoy Lord and Ladies, but some familiarity with the witchy ladies might add to the enjoyment. Please note that in writing this review, I can’t help but spoil one aspect of the ending of Wyrd Sisters.

So (and here is the spoiler for Wyrd Sisters), Magrat Garlick, the youngest... Read More

Cadmian’s Choice: A long middle book

Cadmian’s Choice by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Cadmian’s Choice is the fifth book in L.E. Modesitt Jr’s COREAN CHRONICLES and the second in the trilogy about Mykel and Dainyl. You don’t need to read the first trilogy in the COREAN CHRONICLES (Legacies, Darknesses, Scepters) before reading this one. In fact, I think it makes more sense to read this trilogy first since it focuses on events that occur generations before Legacies. However, you do need to read Alector’s Choice before starting Cadmian’s Choice.

In Alector’s Choice we met Mykel, a “lander” who lives on the planet Corus. He, like most of Modesitt’s protagonists, is ultra-honorable and ultra-competent, and he has risen remark... Read More

The Soldiers of Halla: Finally, some answers!

The Soldiers of Halla by D.J. MacHale

It’s been a few years since Bobby Pendragon first found out he was a Traveler. He’s been all over the territories of Halla, trying to thwart Saint Dane’s plans to throw all of Halla into chaos. Now the final battle is here. Can Bobby and his friends kill Saint Dane, or will all of Halla be forced to live in the terrible universe he has created?

The Soldiers of Halla, the final PENDRAGON book by D.J. MacHale, begins with Bobby learning who he is, where he came from, and what happened to his family — all in one huge infodump. I’m not sure why Bobby couldn’t know these things before... (Well, actually, I do know why — it’s because MacHale likes to withhold information for dramatic effect, even if it doesn’t make sense to the plot. This happens freq... Read More

Raven Rise: Sloppy plot, but I read on

Raven Rise by D.J. MacHale

Raven Rise is the penultimate novel in D.J. MacHale’s PENDRAGON series. (Expect spoilers for previous PENDRAGON books in this review.) At the end of the last book, The Pilgrims of Rayne, Bobby destroyed the flume on Ibara, trapping himself and Saint Dane on that territory. Now Bobby can never go home, but at least Saint Dane will not be able to destroy the rest of Halla. Or so Bobby thinks. Saint Dane is trying, as we knew he would, to find a way off of Ibara.

Meanwhile, the “Convergence” that Saint Dane keeps monologuing about has finally begun. Every territory is in turmoil. The territories have regressed so much that it’s as if all the work that Bobby and the Travelers did in the previous books has been wiped out. The Tr... Read More

The Pilgrims of Rayne: The stakes are high

The Pilgrims of Rayne by D.J. MacHale

The Pilgrims of Rayne is the eighth book in D.J. MacHale’s PENDRAGON series for young adults. I’ll assume that if you’re reading a review for book eight, you realize that I’ll probably be spoiling some of the plots of the previous books here.

Bobby has now Traveled to Saint Dane’s next stop: a tropical island paradise called Ibara. At first Ibara seems like an ideal place to live, but soon, as you expected, Bobby realizes that Ibara is at a tipping point. Everyone is happy on Ibara, but they’re not allowed to leave. What lies beyond the island paradise? A few curious and disgruntled citizens would like to know, and one of those is the son of Ibara’s Traveler, a guy who was killed in the Quillan Games we read about in the previous book. When Bobby Pendragon teams up with these outlaws, they make a surprising discovery that is devastating ... Read More

The Quillan Games: Another exciting PENDRAGON story

The Quillan Games by D.J. MacHale

The Quillan Games is the seventh novel in D.J. MacHale’s PENDRAGON series. Bobby is now on Quillan, one of the most unappealing places we’ve been to so far. Here a large corporation called BLOK (think Wal-Mart) has price-busted everyone else out of business until BLOK basically owns and operates the entire territory. Everyone is poor (BLOK pays low wages) and they are merely surviving. But there is a way to get money. Kids who are willing to risk it, or who are sold off by their families, can play the Quillan Games. They live in a mansion and are treated like royalty... as long as they keep winning. The games are often deadly and eventually, if they keep winning, they’re bound to end up in a fight to the death.

The rest of the populace bets on the games, hoping to supplement their tiny incomes. They watch the games from huge screens that have been e... Read More

The Rivers of Zadaa: MacHale gets this series back on track

The Rivers of Zadaa by D.J. MacHale

With The Rivers of Zadaa, the sixth book in his PENDRAGON series for young adults, D.J. MacHale gets the series back on track after a disappointingly preachy fifth book. If you haven’t read the previous books, but plan to, I advise you to read no further in this review. It’s impossible to talk about The Rivers of Zadaa without spoiling some of the plot of the previous books.

This time Bobby and Saint Dane are battling it out on Zadaa, Loor’s home planet. Saint Dane is trying to trigger chaos by causing strife between the territory’s two main tribes, the Rokador and the Batu. The Batu, the tribe to which Loor belongs, live on the sunny surface of the planet while the Rokador live in tunnels underground. The tribes used to have a synergistic relationship, but now they are on the verge of civil war because most of the wate... Read More

Black Water: The plot suffers for the sake of the Message

Black Water by D.J. MacHale

In Black Water, the fifth book in D.J. MacHale’s PENDRAGON series, the rules seem to be changing. All the things we thought we knew about how the flumes, the territories, the Travelers, and the acolytes work are different. Saint Dane, the villain, has brought that deadly poison he used on Cloral (in The Lost City of Faar) through the flume to use in the beautiful but dangerous territory of Eelong. Bobby Pendragon figures that if Saint Dane has broken the rules, so can he. And so do his friends Mark and Courtney who finally decide to dive into the flume and see what happens. I expect that most fans will be thrilled to see Mark and Courtney in action. Unfortunately, Bobby and his friends will soon find out that breaking the rules sometimes has really bad consequences.

Poison isn’t the only problem in Eelong. When Bobby first arrives,... Read More

The Reality Bug: Metaphysics for kids

The Reality Bug by D.J. MacHale

The Reality Bug is the fourth novel in D.J. MacHale’s 10-book PENDRAGON series for teens. In each novel, young Bobby Pendragon, a Traveler, visits a different “territory” (world) where he tries to prevent Saint Dane, the evil villain, from causing enough chaos to completely destroy the multiverse.

This time Bobby is summoned to the territory of Veelox, which seems peaceful at first. Then he learns that Veelox is quiet because 90% of its population is plugged into a computer simulation that allows them to control and play out all their fantasies. (Don’t worry. This is a book for kids, so these fantasies are all totally, if unrealistically, G-rated.) While people are in the virtual reality, their bodies are monitored and fed as needed. With most of the population of the planet being entertained 24 hours per day (or however long Veelox days are, I actu... Read More

Prudence: A new generation of zany adventures

Prudence by Gail Carriger

Prudence is the first book in Gail Carriger’s new CUSTARD PROTOCOL series. It’s a spin-off of THE PARASOL PROTECTORATE, her five-book series which is about genteel vampires and werewolves in Victorian London. You don’t need to read PARASOL PROTECTORATE before starting Prudence, but you’ll understand the characters and world a little better if you do.

Those who are familiar with PARASOL PROTECTORATE will know who Prudence is. She’s the daughter of Lady Alexia Tarabotti, a preternatural who is able to cancel out other people’s supernatural powers. She has two fathers — alpha werewolf Lord Conal Maccon (her biological father) and the flamboyant vampire Lord Akeldama (who adopted her to protect her from the vampires). Prudence has the extremely rare power of being able to not only cancel other people... Read More

The Never War: Subtle teaching moments and a real emotional impact

The Never War by D.J. MacHale

Note: Contains spoilers for previous PENDRAGON novels.

In The Never War, the third book in D.J. MacHale’s PENDRAGON series, Bobby is now 15 years old and is gaining experience as a Traveler. His job is to protect Earth and other territories of Halla (which includes all peoples, places, and times that have ever existed) from Saint Dane, the super duper evil villain whose goal is to increase chaos everywhere. Somehow, the chaos gives him power.

By the end of book two, The Lost City of Faar, Bobby has successfully foiled Saint Dane’s attempts to throw the territories of Denduron and Cloral into chaos. Now he and Spader, the Traveler from Cloral, are following Saint Dane to the next territory: First Earth. When th... Read More

The Lost City of Faar: An underwater adventure for Bobby Pendragon

The Lost City of Faar by D.J. MacHale

Note: The first paragraph of this review contains minor spoilers for The Merchant of Death.

The Lost City of Faar is the second novel in D.J. MacHale’s popular 10-book PENDRAGON series for teens. In the first book, The Merchant of Death, 14-year old Bobby Pendragon discovered that he is a Traveler — a person who represents a planet and is able to travel through space and time to visit other worlds. The Travelers are trying to stop an evil shapeshifter named Saint Dane from creating chaos in Halla, which consists of everything that exists in all times and places. In that first book, Bobby saved a world called Denduron. When he arrived back on Earth, he found that his family had ceased to exist. His Uncle Press, who is also a ... Read More

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