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.

Arrow’s Flight: Talia goes on circuit

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Arrow’s Flight by Mercedes Lackey

Arrow's Flight is the second book in Mercedes Lackey’s VALDEMAR series. It was originally published in 1987 and has just now been produced in audio format by Tantor Audio. In the first VALDEMAR book, Arrows of the Queen, we met Talia, a young girl being raised in a repressive society who was chosen by a telepathic blue-eyed white horse to be one of the Kingdom's Heralds. She was whisked off to the academy where she began learning the skills needed to protect the kingdom. In her special role as Queens Own, Talia (despite her youth, lack of education, and inexperience in the world) gave the queen advice and help tha... Read More

The Faeries of Sadieville: A lovely ending to the TUFA series

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The Faeries of Sadieville by Alex Bledsoe

The Faeries of Sadieville (2018) is the final novel in Alex Bledsoe’s TUFA series. You’ll get more out of it if you’re read the previous TUFA novels, but it’s not strictly necessary to do so since each novel features a stand-alone story with overlapping characters.

In The Faeries of Sadieville we meet two graduate students who are dating each other; Justin, from the English department, is studying how folk music came to Appalachia, and Veronica is getting a Masters in parapsychology from the psychology department. (Excuse me for just a moment while I interrupt this review to put on my psychology professor hat, slip behind the podium, and declare with authority that... Read More

Akata Witch: An exciting, imaginative, and heart-warming story with a unique setting

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Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny Nwazue, an albino who needs to stay out of the sun, has always been different from the other kids in her school. When her family returned to Nigeria after living in the United States for most of Sunny’s childhood, she never quite found her place. Her strangeness becomes even more obvious when she sees a vision showing what appears to be scenes from the end of the world.

When Sunny finally makes a few friends, she begins to realize there's a reason for her strangeness, and that she's not the only weird kid in town. She finds out that she belongs to the Leopard People, an ancient bloodline that endows its descendants with various magical abilities. As Sunny is initiated into this new family, she learns that she and her friends are part of a prophecy related to her frightening apocalyptic vision. Without much knowledge or skills, Sunny and her friends mu... Read More

Arrows of the Queen: Engaging heroine in an interesting world

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Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Talia is not like normal 13-year-old girls. She likes to read adventure stories and she fantasizes about being a Herald for the queen of Valdemar. She does not want to get married to one of the dreary men in her patriarchal village. So, when a Companion — one of the blue-eyed white horses who belongs to a Herald — shows up without a rider, Talia is happy to help him find his way home and stunned to learn that she’s been chosen to be trained as a Herald at the academy.

Published in 1987, Arrows of the Queen is Mercedes Lackey’s first novel and the first in her popular Valdemar series. This is a coming-of-age tale in which a naïve and wide-eyed youngster who has endured a repressive upbringing is suddenly freed and enrolled in a special school, ... Read More

A Magical Match: Gives us just what we expect (and want)

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A Magical Match by Juliet Blackwell

In A Magical Match, the ninth book in Juliet Blackwell’s WITCHCRAFT MYSTERIES, vintage clothing store owner Lily Ivory is preparing for her wedding, but something is wrong with her groom. He’s been acting strangely, and then he is accused of a murder. Witnesses saw him at the scene, and it looks like an open and shut case, until Lily realizes there may be a magical explanation. Can she discover the truth and get her fiancé out of jail before the wedding?

Sometimes it’s not necessary to write a book review and this is one of those times. Fans of Juliet Blackwell's paranormal cozy mysteries just need to know that A Magical Match maintains the quality of the WITCHCRAFT MYSTERIES Read More

Scourged: A weak ending to a great series

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Scourged by Kevin Hearne

Scourged (2018)is the ninth and final novel in Kevin Hearne’s IRON DRUID CHRONICLES. This has been a great series and I have looked forward to the release of each book as well as all of the related novellas and short stories. The IRON DRUID CHRONICLES is especially wonderful in the audio versions (Random House Audio) performed by the fabulous Luke Daniels. I'm absolutely certain I enjoyed them even more in audio than I would have in print format.

Scourged begins with Oberon, Atticus's adorable canine familiar, helpfully giving us a quick but detailed recap of the story so far. (Thanks, Oberon!) Then we get down to business. Ragnarok is finally here and Loki is letting loose all sorts of ... Read More

Arm of the Sphinx: Senlin is still ascending

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Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

Arm of the Sphinx (2018) is the sequel to Senlin Ascends (2017), Josiah Bancroft’s extremely popular novel that was originally self-published but later picked up by Orbit Books after it was highlighted by Mark Lawrence in his Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off contest a couple years ago. I loved Senlin Ascends, a story about a man named Thomas Senlin who is accidentally separated from his wife at the base of the Tower of Babel. T... Read More

Penric’s Fox: Another murder mystery for Penric

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Penric's Fox by Lois McMaster Bujold

Penric's Fox is the third (according to internal chronology) novella in Lois McMaster Bujold’s PENRIC AND DESDEMONA series, a spin-off from her well-decorated FIVE GODS trilogy. Each of these novellas is essentially a chapter in Penric's story and I assume that someday they'll be combined together in one volume.

This particular story takes place after the events of Penric and the Shaman, so I would recommend reading it after that story and before Penric’s Mission. While visiting the capital cit... Read More

Memory: Why Bujold is secretly revolutionary

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold

My copy of Memory looks like it was reread several dozen times and then shoved in the bottom of a backpack and schlepped a few hundred thousand miles (it was). It’s my favorite book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s VORKOSIGAN SAGA, which is a series made up of some of my favorite books. But it isn’t high literature or uber-intellectual science fiction or the kind of book that people call “genre bending.” The plot is pure, fast-paced, crime-solving fun, like the rest of the series. It’s just a cheap paperback.

But it moved me, and continues to move me. This review is my attempt to understand how and why. After some thought and another rereading, I’ve come to suspect that it’s a book built on tiny, imperfectly perfect human interactions. The meat of Memory isn’t... Read More

Mirror Dance: A fine metaphor

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Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is Marion's review of The Vor Game, Brothers in Arms, and Mirror Dance. Kat's comments about Mirror Dance are at the bottom.

Miles Vorkosigan is nearly a dwarf, with bones as brittle as fine porcelain, and he is a Vor, one of the elite, the son of the Imperial Regent. The Vor, and everyone on Barrayar for that matter, are terrified of mutation because of their history, and Miles looks like a mutation even though he isn’t one. During the middle books of this series, Miles finds a way to serve his planet while succeeding in space, where for the most part people judge achievement more than physical appearance.

Miles cannot escape his Barrayaran heritage, however. In The Vor Game, he must rescue his cousin and planetary emperor Greg... Read More

Brothers in Arms: Adds a new facet to the Vorkosigan character

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is Marion's review of The Vor Game, Brothers in Arms, and Mirror Dance

Miles Vorkosigan is nearly a dwarf, with bones as brittle as fine porcelain, and he is a Vor, one of the elite, the son of the Imperial Regent. The Vor, and everyone on Barrayar for that matter, are terrified of mutation because of their history, and Miles looks like a mutation even though he isn’t one. During the middle books of this series, Miles finds a way to serve his planet while succeeding in space, where for the most part people judge achievement more than physical appearance.

Miles cannot escape his Barrayaran heritage, however. In The Vor Game, he must rescue his cousin and planetary emperor Gr... Read More

Borders of Infinity: Three important stories about Miles

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold (contains the novellas “The Mountains of Mourning,” “Labyrinth,” “The Borders of Infinity”)

Borders of Infinity has a different structure than the earlier VORKOSIGAN books. It’s actually three previously published novellas with a frame story. Simon Illyan, head of Imperial Security, is visiting Miles while he’s recuperating in the hospital after a surgery for bone replacements. Knowing that the government will start asking questions, Simon needs Miles to justify three large vague items in his expense reports. When Miles protests, Simon explains that because he’s the prime minister’s son, Miles must avoid even the appearance of shady accounting practices. And so Miles explains each item and thus we get the stories in the novellas “The Mountains of Mourning,” origi... Read More

Senlin Ascends: Bizarre and delightful

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Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

Two years ago when we were involved with Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, Senlin Ascends (2017) was one of the books that didn't make it to the final round (so we didn’t get to read it then). But Mark Lawrence read it, started talking about it on the internet, and it got picked up by Orbit Books. Hachette, the parent company of Orbit Books, just recently produced it in audio format and sent me a copy.

Thomas Senlin is a stuffy schoolmaster from a small town who just got married and is on his way with Marya, his new bride, to The Tower of Babel, a strange structure that ascends hundreds of feet in the air and whose top (if there is one) is obscured by clouds. Thomas has read ... Read More

Cetaganda: A murder mystery in space

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cetaganda (1996) is the ninth novel that Lois McMaster Bujold published in her popular VORKOSIGAN SAGA but, chronologically, the story takes place earlier in the sequence, between The Vor Game and Ethan of Athos. If you’re new to this series, I (and the author) recommend reading these novels in order of internal chronology which is how we have them listed here at Fantasy Literature. I read some of them out of order because of how they were presented in the Baen Omnibus editions and I regret that. The story flows much better if you read them chronologically. (Still, though, any order is better than not reading them at all — this is a great series!)

In Cetaganda Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Favorite book covers (from the past 5 years)

It seems like we're always making fun of horrible book covers, so now let's take some time to praise some great cover art. We'll make this a regular feature.

To narrow down the results, for this contest, let's choose covers that have been published within the last five years. Here are a couple of my favorites:

 
Full Fathom Five artist: Chris McGrath
The Lady of the Lake artists: Bartlomiej Gawel & Pawel Brudniak (design by Lauren Panepinto)

 

What are some of your recent favorites? Please name the artist if you know who it is.

Our blog software won't allow you to upload images, so you can either link to the cover somewhere on the internet (e.g., Amazon) or, try using this code with the URL of the image between the quotation marks:
<img src="URL goes here">
If this doesn't work (the blog is trying to protect us from unscrupulous commenters' images), I... Read More

Godslayer: The bad guys’ story

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Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey

I loved the unique world, loveable characters, unusual plot, and sumptuous prose I discovered in Jacqueline Carey’s KUSHIEL books. Most of these elements are also present in her THE SUNDERING duology but, as I mentioned in my review of the first installment, Banewreaker, I found the book easy to admire and hard to love. With its formal style and remote, larger-than-life characters, it reads more like a myth than a story. If you’re in the mood for that type of tale, I’d recommend this duology.

Godslayer is the end of the story started in Banewreaker. (So you‘ve got to read Banewreaker Read More

Sunrunner’s Fire: Not the end of the story

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Sunrunner’s Fire by Melanie Rawn

Sunrunner’s Fire (1990) is the third and final book in Melanie Rawn’s DRAGON PRINCE trilogy, but it is not the end of the story. The story continues in a second trilogy called DRAGON STAR. While the immediate tension of Sunrunner’s Fire is resolved by the end, there are looming issues that remain, making Sunrunner’s Fire feel like another middle book.

The story begins just after the end of the previous book, The Star Scroll (for which this review will contain spoilers) and moves us quickly through several years’ worth of significant events before settling in on the... Read More

The Vor Game: Mixes space opera with political drama

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The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is Marion's review of The Vor Game, Brothers in Arms, and Mirror Dance. Kat's comments about The Vor Game are at the bottom.

Miles Vorkosigan is nearly a dwarf, with bones as brittle as fine porcelain, and he is a Vor, one of the elite, the son of the Imperial Regent. The Vor, and everyone on Barrayar for that matter, are terrified of mutation because of their history, and Miles looks like a mutation even though he isn’t one. During the middle books of this series, Miles finds a way to serve his planet while succeeding in space, where for the most part people judge achievement more than physical appearance.

Miles cannot escape his Barrayaran heritage, however. In The Vor Game, he must rescue his cousin and planetary emperor Greg... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Identify last month’s covers (giveaway!)

Sorry this post is going up so late today..... somebody is drinking margaritas in Mexico and forgot to post it!

Today’s covers all come from books we reviewed in January 2018. Once you identify a book cover, in the comment section list:

1. The number of the cover (1-16)
2. The author
3. The book title



Please identify just one cover that has not yet been identified correctly so that others will have a chance to play. If they're not all identified by next Thursday, you can come back and identify more.

Each of your correct entries enters you into a drawing to win a book of your choice from our stacks. Winners are notified in the comments, so make sure to check the notification box or remember to check back in about 10 days. If we don'... Read More

The Warrior’s Apprentice: You’ll want to read more!

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold

Editor's note: This is Marion's review of Shards of HonorBarrayar, and The Warrior’s Apprentice. Kat's comments about The Warrior's Apprentice are at the bottom.

Do you like fancy military uniforms? Shiny spaceships that blow things up? Brooding aristocrats with hulking stone castles and dark secrets? Snappy comebacks and one-liners? Voluptuous women warriors? Swords and secret passages? Surprising twists on standard military tactics of engagement?

If you answered “Yes” to three or more, check out the VORKOSIGAN SAGA. Lois McMaster Bujold started this series in the mid-80s. The VORKOSIGAN books start out as space opera, even having map... Read More

The Book of Dragons: Wonderful dragon stories for kids

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The Book of Dragons by Edith Nesbit

Edith Nesbit writes the most clever and charming children's stories. I love them. The Book of Dragons is a collection of eight delightful tales about dragons:

“The Book of Beasts” — Lionel, a young boy, is summoned to be the king after his great-great-great-something-grandfather dies. In the library of his new castle, he discovers the Book of Beasts and opens it. Out flies a red dragon who eats a soccer team and an orphanage. King Lionel must outwit the dragon with some help from a hippogriff and a manticore. This story is pretty funny and it, as well as the narrator’s voice in the audio edition I listened to, reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman.

... Read More

SFM: Corey, Gilman, Vaughn, McDonald, Bisson

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.



The Vital Abyss by James S.A. Corey (2015, $2.99 Kindle, $4.95 audio)

I haven’t read or watched THE EXPANSE yet, but I purchased some of the related novellas when they were on sale at Audible. The first one I read was The Vital Abyss and I loved it. This is my type of science fiction.

The story opens with 37 people held captive in a large room. They’ve been there for many years. One day a man comes in and asks for one of the prisoners to interpret some information that’s on a handheld computer. Thinking this may be a way for ... Read More

A City Dreaming: Intriguing hero, intriguing setting

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A City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky

First things first: A City Dreaming (2016) is not really a novel (as its cover claims). It’s more like a collection of connected short stories that all feature the same protagonist (an adept named M) in the same setting (a supernatural New York City). The stories progress chronologically and have a cast of recurring characters. I liked this set-up quite well, but I suspect that some readers will want to be warned about this straight off so they can choose to approach A City Dreaming when they’re in the mood for a more episodic adventure.

M has just returned to NYC after being out of the country for years. He’s introverted and somewhat of a loner, so at first he doesn’t let anyone know he’s in town, but soon the magical community becomes aware of his presence and then his friends, acquaintances... Read More

Barrayar: Culture shock

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

Editor's note: This is Marion's review of Shards of HonorBarrayar, and The Warrior’s Apprentice. Kat's comments about Barrayar and Stuart's review are at the bottom.

Do you like fancy military uniforms? Shiny spaceships that blow things up? Brooding aristocrats with hulking stone castles and dark secrets? Snappy comebacks and one-liners? Voluptuous women warriors? Swords and secret passages? Surprising twists on standard military tactics of engagement?

If you answered “Yes” to three or more, check out the VORKOSIGAN SAGA. Lois McMaster Bujold started this series in the mid-80s. The ... Read More

Shards of Honor: Fall in love with the Vorkosigans

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

Editor's note: This is Marion's review of Shards of HonorBarrayar, and The Warrior’s Apprentice. Kat's comments about Shards of Honor and Tadiana's and Stuart's reviews are below.

Do you like fancy military uniforms? Shiny spaceships that blow things up? Brooding aristocrats with hulking stone castles and dark secrets? Snappy comebacks and one-liners? Voluptuous women warriors? Swords and secret passages? Surprising twists on standard military tactics of engagement?

If you answered “Yes” to three or more, check out the VORKOSIGAN SAGA. Lois McMaster Bujold started this series in the mid-80s. The Vorkosigan books start out as space opera, even having... Read More

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