All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park
I'm not a big reader of avant-garde fiction. In fact, I'm SO not a big reader of it that I'm not even sure if I'm applying the term correctly to Paul Park's recent novel All Those Vanished Engines. I'm probably not. But the thing is, I'm not sure what term to apply to it: meta-fiction? Experimental fiction? Alternate history with several unreliable narrators who may or may not be Paul Park himself?
All Those Vanished Engines is a novel told in three parts. The first part is about a child, Paulina, who lives in Virginia after the Civil War in an alternate history in which the States aren't so United anymore. The conflict continues, with the Queen of the North brokering an uneasy truce with the South. Paulina, forbidden to read, has begun to wr... Read More
All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park
Plague Seed by Wade Alan Steele
I did not finish Plague Seed by Wade Alan Steele and so as is usual when that happens, this will be quite the short review, as I don’t like to belabor the point about why I found a book to be so bad that I put it down.
Plague Seed begins with a letter from the elven Seligre, “Savior of Oldenhome and the southern lands of Talandria,” to his newborn son, introducing his account of the Plague War. He’s written this account in response to the inaccurate, overblown “history” of the war by Rawlen Brokenhorn (a minotaur) so that his son will know what really happened, and that his father was not the “elven hero of epic strength and laudable intentions” portrayed in Brokenhorn’s multi-volume history. A short letter by Brokenhorn himself follows, in which he describes to the master librarian how he received Seligre’s story and why he thinks it should not grace the s... Read More
Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan
Let me start this DNF review by saying that I have not read the previous books in Kristen Callihan’s DARKEST LONDON romance series. The books, which are set in a paranormal Victorian London, have overlapping characters, but each focuses on a different couple. My failure to enjoy Shadowdance has nothing to do with my unfamiliarity with the world or characters — I was able to pick up on those things well enough. My issues are with this particular story. I wouldn’t be surprised if I liked other DARKEST LONDON books a lot better (Kelly likes the first one). Shadowdance gets great reviews at Amazon, Goodreads and Audible. The audio version is produced by Hachette Audio and features one of my newest favorite readers, British actress Moira Quirk. She’s phenomenal, as always, and is perfect in this role.
... Read More
Parasite by Mira Grant
In Mira Grant’s new novel Parasite, a major new scientific development has transformed the medical world: the Intestinal Bodyguard is a genetically engineered parasite that lives in your bowels and can secrete drugs directly into your digestive tract. It’s nothing short of a medical revolution.
To be absolutely clear here, what we’re talking about is a tapeworm. That’s right: a company developed a benign tapeworm that people voluntarily ingest to stay healthy. It may be just me, but I cannot even begin to fathom the size of the marketing budget a company would need to convince people to voluntarily become hosts to a worm that lives in your gut. (Just for fun, look up some pictures of tapeworms. Look up how they used to be removed, prior to antibiotics. Nightmares. Nightmares, I tell you.)
Despite the fact that the Intestinal Bodyguard... Read More
Fireblood by Jeff Wheeler
I usually give books sent for me to review a lot more of a chance than books I pick up on my own, having some sense of obligation. And that was the case with Fireblood by Jeff Wheeler. According to my trusty Kindle, I read sixty-seven percent, giving it more than a week of picking it up and putting it down. Generally, if I can’t finish a book in two or three days, I know I’m having problems with it. So over a week and barely past halfway through, I decided to let this one go.
The story is set in a world visited regularly by devastating plagues. The first chapter, more of a prologue, shows us the tail end of an unsuccessful expedition into the Scourgelands in an attempt to end the plagues. The leader of the expedition, Tyrus, appears to be the sole survivor. Years later, Tyrus is involved once again in an attempt to stop the plagues, this time involving his nephew Anon, a Druidecht (yes, think... Read More
Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell
The protagonist in Sean Ferrell’s Man in the Empty Suit has seen and done it all. Thanks to his ability to travel in time, he’s cruised all the way up and down the course of human history. There’s not much that’ll get him excited anymore. Every year, he travels to the year 2071, the 100th anniversary of his own birth, to celebrate his birthday with dozens of younger and older versions of himself. It’s the world’s most exclusive party: only he and other versions of himself are invited.
However, on the year he turns 39, things don’t go exactly as planned: he discovers the body of his 40-year-old self, apparently murdered by a gunshot to the head. Surrounded by alternate versions of himself in varying states of intoxication, his mission is clear: he has to find out who murdered his one-year-older self, before it’s too late.
The premise of Man in the Empty... Read More
The Hot Gate by John Ringo
The Hot Gate is the third novel in John Ringo’s TROY RISING series. This series started off well with the first half of the first book, Live Free or Die. Then Ringo’s protagonist, Tyler Vernon, turned out to be an outspoken Nazi-sympathizer and TROY RISING plummeted. The second book, Citadel, was better, but still not good enough to recommend. (Please see my reviews for specifics.) I began reading the third book, The Hot Gate, hoping that things would continue to improve, but only because the publisher sent me a free review copy.
Unfortunately, the story regresses in book three. I read most of The Hot Gate, but couldn’t finish it. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this review because chances are that you’re not reading this unless you’re thinking about reading The Hot Gate, which means you probably have... Read More
Blood Song by Anthony Ryan
I purchased Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song because it showed up in my Goodreads "recommended" list with a ton of 5-star reviews. I'm usually suspicious, however, when the reviews so overwhelmingly endorse the greatness of a book. Based on my experience with Blood Song, I was right to be suspicious.
While Blood Song is not horrible — I probably would've slid it 3 stars had I finished — I'm totally clueless as to how it earned so many 5-star reviews. Granted, I'm long past the age where I enjoy coming-of-age stories, if I ever did like them much. So maybe that's the reason I don't understand why Blood Song is getting so much love.
I read about 60% of the book, and it still seemed like it was in the prologue. I get that the harsh military training the characters endure is a big part of the story, but does it have to be so much of it? Call me... Read More
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
Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero by Dan Abnett
It’s 2010 and Queen Elizabeth XXX is on the throne of a magical alternate England. When the throne is threatened, Sir Rupert Triumff, discoverer of Australia, comes to the rescue.
I’ll make this short. I didn’t get very far with Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero. The story is a comedy of the sort that has no appeal to me. It’s written in a self-consciously long-winded style where extensive detailed descriptions and explanations of every minor person and place keep interrupting the plot in order to provide background trivia and to crack jokes. Unfortunately, the trivia isn’t interesting or relevant and the jokes aren’t funny. By the end of the first chapter I felt buried under minutiae and puerility. Here’s just one example (read the first chapter at Amazon to get more of the sense of it):
Gonzalo would attempt to distract Her Majesty with discourses on the correct stri... Read More
Beyond This Horizon by Robert A. Heinlein
Hamilton Felix is a genetic superman, carefully crafted from the best chromosomes his ancestors had to offer. He lives in a world where most people live long easy lives untroubled by disease, poverty, and tooth decay. It’s boring. Until Felix accidentally infiltrates a revolutionary group of elitists who want to take over the world and run things their way.
As boring as Hamilton Felix’s life is, this book about him is even more boring. There are lots of ideas in Beyond This Horizon, but very little story to connect them together and make them interesting. One problem is that most of these ideas — eugenics, selective breeding, survival of the fittest — are neither new nor particularly interesting for the 21st century reader, though that’s not Heinlein’s fault because Beyond This Horizon was published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1942. What is He... Read More
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
Between by Kerry Schafer
I hate to give a DNF review to Between by Kerry Schafer. I love finding new authors to read, the cover art is pretty (check out the subtle scales on her shoulder!), and the premise sounded great. Unfortunately, I only got about halfway through the book before setting it aside.
Schafer’s heroine, Vivian, has always had strange dreams, and now those dreams are affecting reality, for her and everyone around her. She’s an ER doctor, and one of her patients dies after an attack by dragons — dragons that come from the Between, which is the realm that lies between the waking world and the dreaming one.
Meanwhile, her mother (who lost her grip on sanity because she slipped too easily between the worlds) has gone missing from the institution in which she lives, and her grandfather has died and left her some strange objects and cryptic information. And the handsome man she just met seem... Read More
Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht
Stina Leicht’s 2011 publication Of Blood and Honey has an interesting premise and lovely language, but I couldn’t stay with it. This was the book that kept getting set aside for others — any others — and even television. I did make it to page 191 of 295, but after three months of moving it to reach for something else, I just had to give up.
Of Blood and Honey is the first book in Leicht's THE FEY AND THE FALLEN series. It is set in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, a time of great political unrest, and the fantastical elements (the native fey folk and the fallen angels of Christianity) mirror the struggles between Catholics and Protestants. Liam, the main character, grew up in Catholic Derry. He is illegitimate, treated warily by his neighbors. Liam has always believed that his absent father was a Protestant, but his father was really a Fey.
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff is the second book in THE GALE WOMEN series. While I enjoyed the first book, The Enchantment Emporium, even though it had serious flaws, The Wild Ways was not good. I got to about halfway through and didn’t care about the characters. In fact, on a semi-regular basis, I couldn’t keep the characters apart.
I also had serious difficulties with the “too much power/too little consequences” system of magic in this book. Basically, the Gale family can shift reality to meet their will, including things like making airline tickets magically appear when they need them for exactly what they can afford — a magical power I would surely like to develop — and yet it is used for the good of Canada. Or, at least, what the Gale family thinks is the good of Canada. If his... Read More