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.

Halt’s Peril: Not much plot, like middle WOT

Halt’s Peril by John Flanagan

Halt’s Peril is the ninth book in John Flanagan’s RANGER’S APPRENTICE series. It’s a direct sequel to the eighth book, The Kings of Clonmel, in which we learned Halt’s backstory while he, Will and Horace attempted to save the country of Clonmel from Tennyson, a cult leader who was planning a coup. They did manage to save Clonmel, but now Tennyson and his followers have left the country and our heroes suspect that they are on their way to Araluen with similar intentions. So, naturally, they plan to track down the bad guys and stop them before they can bring grief to Araluen. During the process, however, Halt receives a life-threatening injury. Will has to make a long detour to seek help for Halt.

To get straight to the point, Read More

Unnatural Issue: Great premise executed poorly

Unnatural Issue by Mercedes Lackey

All of Mercedes Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS novels are stand-alone retellings of fairy tales from around the world. Unnatural Issue (2011) is Lackey’s adaption of Charles Perrault’s “Donkeyskin,” a more obscure French tale from 1695 about a king who wanted to marry his daughter. In Lackey’s version, this king is an Earth Mage named Richard Whitestone, a country squire who was devastated by his beautiful wife’s death 20 years ago. When his daughter Suzanne, who he’s never met, grows up to look just like his wife, Whitestone notices her and decides to use necromantic arts to have his wife’s spirit displace his daughter’s in Susanne’s body. Fortunately, Suzanne has some powers of her own because she’s been trained as an Earth Mage by Robin Goodfellow. When she figures out t... Read More

Working for Bigfoot: Three DRESDEN FILES novellas

Working for Bigfoot: Stories From the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Most DRESDEN FILES fans probably didn’t know that one of Harry’s occasional clients is a Bigfoot named Strength of a River in His Shoulders. River has a half-human son named Irwin Pounder whom he has never met. Whenever River senses that Irwin needs help, he calls Harry Dresden, wizard for hire. So, in Working for Bigfoot, Jim Butcher gives us three novellas about three cases that Harry has worked for River. This is a welcome addition to the DRESDEN FILES, as fans wait for the next novel-length installment. It would also be a great introduction to Harry for those who aren’t familiar with Chicago’s greatest wizard.

In the first story, “B is for Bigfoot,” we witness the first meeting between Harry and River... Read More

The Kings of Clonmel: Another adventure for Flanagan’s superheroes

The Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan

The Kings of Clonmel, the eighth book in John Flanagan’s RANGER’S APPRENTICE series, begins a new story arc that occurs after the events of book six, The Siege of Macindaw. (Book seven, Erak’s Ransom, went back in time a bit.) For the best experience, you’ll want to read all the previous books before beginning this one. Book nine, Halt’s Peril, is a direct sequel to The Kings of Clonmel.

As the story begins, Will, now a full-fledged Ranger, is at the annual Rangers meeting, overseeing the testing of other apprentices. During this process he is amazed to discover that some of his past exploits, such as the siege of Castle Macindaw, are being used in testing exercises... Read More

City of the Chasch: Finally! PLANET OF ADVENTURE on audio!

City of the Chasch by Jack Vance

City of the Chasch (1968) is the first book in Jack Vance’s PLANET OF ADVENTURE series. I’m so excited that Blackstone Audio is finally getting these produced in audio format! City of the Chasch was just released a few weeks ago and the following books, Servants of the Wankh, The Dirdir, and The Pnume, will be released in the next three months (one per month).

In this first book we meet Adam Reith, a scout on a spaceship that traveled from Earth to the planet Carina 4269 from which some sort of signal has been detected. When Adam is sent out on a shuttle to reconnoiter the planet, the spaceship and its crew is shot down and Adam crash-lands, leaving him alone an... Read More

Erak’s Ransom: Goes back in time

Erak’s Ransom by John Flanagan

Erak’s Ransom is the seventh book in John Flanagan’s RANGER’S APPRENTICE series, but chronologically its story occurs after the events of book four, The Battle for Skandia. I would recommend reading Erak’s Ransom after book four and before you read books five and six (The Sorcerer of the North and The Siege of Macindaw). Since I had already read those stories and knew what happened to the characters, it reduced some of the tension. This review will contain spoilers for books one through four.

Will, Halt, Horace and Princess Cassandra are back from overseas after helping Skandia, their former enemy, defeat a common foe. They help broker a peace with Erak, Skandia’s new Ob... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Max Gladstone talks about writing fight scenes (and gives away a book)

Max Gladstone writes the CRAFT SEQUENCE which we love not only for its unique characters, world and plot, but for its awesome cover art. The most recent CRAFT book, Last First Snow, was released last week. I haven't had a chance to read it yet (can't wait!), but I'm assuming it's got some amazing fight scenes in it because that's what Max is here to talk about today: Writing fight scenes!

One commenter with a US or Candian address will win their very own copy (including awesome cover!) of Last First Snow.

Fantasy writers and readers spend a lot of time talking about action. We want cool fight scenes! But what do we mean when we say that?

Fights are tricky. We think we know what a “good fight scene” looks like, most of the time, because we know what a good fight scene looks lik... Read More

The Siege of Macindaw: Fans won’t care about the flaws

The Siege of Macindaw by John Flanagan

This review will contain a few plot spoilers for previous books in the series.

The Siege of Macindaw is book six of John Flanagan’s RANGER’S APPRENTICE series and it’s a direct sequel to the previous book, The Sorcerer of the North. When we left Will at the end of that book, his girlfriend Alyss had been captured and imprisoned in Castle Macindaw by a man who has allied himself with the Scotti, invaders from the north who plan to use the castle to get a toe-hold in Araluen. Now Will must use all his wits and resources to get Alyss out of the castle while saving his country from the Scotti invaders.

The solution to Will’s problem seemed obvious to me right from the start, so the plot of The Siege of Macindaw Read More

The Sorcerer of the North: World-building problems begin to show

The Sorcerer of the North by John Flanagan

This review will contain minor spoilers for John Flanagan’s previous RANGER’S APPRENTICE books: The Ruins of Gorlan, The Burning Bridge, The Icebound Land, and The Battle for Skandia. The Sorcerer of the North begins a new story arc and new readers could start here, but for maximum enjoyment, I recommend going back and starting with The Ruins of Gorlan.

When we left Will and his friends at the end of The Battle for Skandia, our hero Will, a Ranger’s apprentice, had finally returned home to Araluen with the princess Cassandra after they had been kidnapped by Araluen’s long-time Viking-ish enemies, the Skandians. ... Read More

The Battle for Skandia: The enemy of my enemy…

The Battle for Skandia by John Flanagan

As usual, since The Battle for Skandia is book four in John Flanagan’s RANGER’S APPRENTICE series, you should expect spoilers for the previous books: The Ruins of Gorlan, The Burning Bridge, and The Icebound Land.

At the end of The Icebound Land, we left Will and Princess Cassandra hiding out in a cabin in the woods during winter in Skandia after they escaped from slavery. Cassandra has been nursing Will back to health for weeks. Now things are starting to thaw and they must leave before hunters arrive. Right away, though, Cassandra is captured by some Temujai warriors. (We haven’t heard of these folks before which, in my mind, may indicate that Flan... Read More

The Icebound Land: Just as entertaining as the previous books

The Icebound Land by John Flanagan

I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying John Flanagan’s RANGER’S APPRENTICE series for middle grade / young adult readers. The Icebound Land is the third book and it’s just as charming as the previous books, The Ruins of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge. You need to read those books before beginning The Icebound Land, so expect spoilers for them in this review.

At the end of The Burning Bridge, Horace defeated Morgarath. (This both surprised and delighted me because Morgarath was a cliché and I was afraid that the series, which contains 12 books so far, was going to be a never-ending battle between the good guys and Morgarath. I’m so glad he’s gone!)... Read More

The Burning Bridge: A little derivative, but I didn’t care

The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan

This review will contain minor spoilers for the previous book, The Ruins of Gorlan.

The Burning Bridge is the second book in John Flanagan’s RANGER’S APPRENTICE series for middle grade readers. In the first book, The Ruins of Gorlan, we met Will, an orphaned boy who grew up as a ward of a baron in the country of Araluen. Thinking that his dead father was a warrior, he wanted to be one also, but instead he is assigned to be a Ranger’s apprentice. The Rangers, who Will knows very little about, are a secretive group of cloak-wearing men that serve the king and protect the kingdom. He doesn’t know it yet, but Will’s smaller stature, quick wit, and courage are perfect attributes for this profession. By the... Read More

The Quantum Rose: A Nebula? Really?

The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro

I have really really tried to give Catherine Asaro’s SKOLIAN EMPIRE series a fair chance. As I keep saying in my reviews, this should have been just my thing — space opera written by a female physicist. I should be loving this! Instead, to get straight to the point, so far these books have been mostly insipid insta-love romances with some quantum theory thrown in. As a woman who enjoys hard science fiction, and especially quantum theory, I was disappointed to find that these books do not appeal to me. It’s hard to imagine that they appeal much to romance readers, either, because the romances are so dull. A couple of the books (those featuring Kelric) might better be labeled erotica rather than romance.

The Quantum Rose is the sixth SKOLIAN EMPIRE book (going in publication order), but it can definitely stand alone. This one takes ... Read More

Kat Chats with Xe Sands (and gives away something)

Xe Sands (pronounced EK-see) is one of my favorite audiobook narrators. She performs in many genres, but I’m mostly familiar with her SFF titles such as Juliet Blackwell’s books, Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance, and Kelly Meding’s DREG CITY series. I’ve read several online interviews with Xe in which I learned all sorts of interesting Read More

Igraine the Brave: A sweet feminist children’s story

Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke

After finishing The Thief Lord, my daughter and I wanted to read more Cornelia Funke (pronounced “FOONK-ah”) so we picked up Igraine the Brave, a short novel that we listened to in audio format.

Igraine is a 12 year old girl who lives in a castle complete with a moat, drawbridge, stone lions and gargoyles, and lots of spiders (Igraine hates spiders). Her parents are famous magicians and her older brother is training with them. Igraine has no use for magic, though. She wants to be a knight. She gets her chance when her parents accidentally turn themselves into pigs just as the castle is under siege by enemy forces. The only way to turn her parents back into humans so they can protect the castle with their magic spells, is to make a potion t... Read More

Spellcasting in Silk: Another great audio installment

Spellcasting in Silk by Juliet Blackwell

Think of Juliet Blackwell’s WITCHCRAFT MYSTERY series as paranormal cozy mysteries. Each stands alone and deals with a relatively non-gory murder committed by a seemingly upstanding member of the San Francisco Haight-Ashbury community where Lily Ivory owns a vintage clothing shop. Being a witch, Lily has some amateur detective skills that Carlos Romero, the handsome local homicide detective, finds helpful. In each installment, Lily, who can be a little nosey (as any amateur detective is), helps solve the case. As the series advances, new characters are added, Lily’s business grows, and her love life evolves. Although each murder mystery stands alone, I recommend reading the WITCHCRAFT MYSTERIES in order so that you don’t miss Lily’s character development.

I would also highly (highly!) recommend that you read these in audio format, even if you’re ... Read More

Red Planet: A children’s adventure on Mars

Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein

I’ve mentioned several times how much I loved Robert A. Heinlein’s “Juveniles” when I was a kid. I found them on my dad’s bookshelves (I don’t think he’s ever gotten rid of a book) and I read some of them several times. If you had asked me last week which was my favorite, I would have said “Red Planet.” I remember loving this book, though all I could recall about it was a cute fuzzy round alien named Willis who bounces around like a basketball, and a couple of boys crossing the desolate landscape of Mars.

Last week, with much anticipation, I downloaded Red Planet (1949) from Audible so that I could listen to it with my 12 year old daughter, Tali. I was so excited to share this story with her. In the opening scene we met Willis, and Tali loved him as mu... Read More

Fiendish Schemes: Delightfully droll

Fiendish Schemes by K.W. Jeter

Fiendish Schemes is a recent (2013) sequel to K.W. Jeter’s classic steampunk novel Infernal Devices which I have previously reviewed. Jeter, who inadvertently coined the term “steampunk” and writes in a style similar to his friend James P. Blaylock, is probably an acquired taste. Personally, I love his droll overblown style, his eccentric and morose characters who tend to be paranoid and suicidal, and his absurd plots. If you’re a fan of Blaylock, Jack Vance Read More

Ascendant Sun: A weird mix of hard SF and erotica

Ascendant Sun by Catherine Asaro

This review will contain spoilers for previous books.

I keep working through Catherine Asaro’s SKOLIAN EMPIRE series. I keep expecting to love the next book, but here I am on book five and it’s still not working for me.

Ascendant Sun is a sequel to The Radiant Seas and a direct sequel to The Last Hawk which, frankly, I didn’t like. The Last Hawk was about Kelric, a prince of the Skolian Empire, who crash-landed and was held prisoner for 18 years on a planet with a matriarchal society. I didn’t believe in the society and I didn’t believe in Kelric’s reaction to it. Ascendant Sun, which picks up where The Last Hawk left off, i... Read More

The Short Victorious War: Honor feels more human

The Short Victorious War by David Weber

So far I have not much cared for David Weber’s extremely popular HONOR HARRINGTON series. In the first two books, On Basilisk Station and The Honor of the Queen, I thought there was way too much exposition and that Honor was cold and distant and too much of a Mary Sue (here are my reviews). It’s hard for me to enjoy a series if I don’t like its protagonist unless it has some other excellent qualities that can make up for that. I decided to give Honor Harrington another try, though, because Marion has recently written a review for the fourth book, Field of Dishonor, and I already had the third book, The Short Victorious War, in my Audibl... Read More

Ellison Wonderland: Annoyingly pompous, but still entertaining

Ellison Wonderland by Harlan Ellison®

Harlan Ellison® comes across as pompous, overbearing, aggressive, and obnoxious, but I wouldn’t miss any of his stories. He’s one of the best story tellers in speculative fiction and I have no problem separating the man’s fiction from his personality (though that abrasiveness often comes across in his fiction, too). And, as much as I don’t like his personality, I have to admit that he’s interesting. Partly that’s because he does interesting things such as getting expelled from THE Ohio State University after assaulting a professor who criticized his writing, but mostly it’s because he’s been involved in the SFF scene since a couple of decades before I was even born, so he’s got a lot of stories to tell about the industry and about some of my favorite writers.

That’s what he does for a lar... Read More

The Thief Lord: My kids love this fantasy set in Venice

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

One thing I love about summer vacation is that my 12 year old daughter Tali and I have time to read together. Our first book for the summer was Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord which, as Tali was thrilled to learn, takes place in Venice, a city she visited a couple of summers ago with my parents.

The story is about Boniface (Bo) and his big brother Prosper(o). Their parents are dead and their aunt wants to adopt only Bo because he’s cute and sweet. She plans to send Prospero to boarding school. So the boys run away to Venice, a city their mother loved. There they fall in with a small group of orphans who live in an abandoned theater and claim that a boy named The Thief Lord is their leader. He brings them the loot he steals and they sell it to Barbarosa, a corrupt red-haired shopkeeper. When Barbarosa offers the kids a lucrative job, they decide to take it. But they nee... Read More

The Last Hawk: I didn’t believe in the matriarchy

The Last Hawk by Catherine Asaro

The Last Hawk is the fourth of Catherine Asaro’s SKOLIAN EMPIRE saga, if we’re going in publication order, but it’s the first book about Kelric Valdoria, one of Sauscony Valdoria’s brothers. You don’t have to read the previous three books first (Primary Inversion, Catch the Lightning, The Radiant Seas), but you need to read The Last Hawk before you read Ascendant Sun, its successor.

Kelric, a Jaggernaut with psi powers, crash-lands on the planet Coba and wakes up in one of their medical facilities. Coba, which used to belong to the Ruby Empire, has been forgotten and has managed to stay off the current Skolian Empire’s radar. The planet is a matriarchy with essentially no military and relatively low levels of technol... Read More

The Radiant Seas: Better than previous books

The Radiant Seas by Catherine Asaro

The Radiant Seas is the direct sequel to Primary Inversion, Catherine Asaro’s debut novel which introduces her Skolian Empire. Readers should note that the book Catch the Lightning was published between Primary Inversion and The Radiant Seas, its sequel. If you’ve just read Primary Inversion (which you need to read before picking up The Radiant Seas), I advise skipping Catch the Lightning for now (or forever). This review will contain spoilers for Primary Inversion.

The Radiant Seas begins a short time before Primary Inversion ends — ... Read More

Catch the Lightning: Romantic space opera

Catch the Lightning by Catherine Asaro

If we’re talking about publication order, Catch the Lightning is the second book in Catherine Asaro’s SKOLIAN EMPIRE series. It stands between Primary Inversion and that book’s direct sequel, The Radiant Seas. If you’re coming from reading Primary Inversion, I suggest you skip this one for now and read The Radiant Seas first... Actually, it’s not a bad idea to skip this one altogether...

Catch the Lightning is about a gorgeous teenager named Tina who lives in an alternate Los Angeles where the Mayan civilization didn’t die out yet. All of Tina’s family members are dead and she works as a waitress in an impoverished crime-ridden community. She wishes she could go to college, but she doesn’t have any money. W... Read More

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