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
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Parasite by Mira Grant
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
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
The Well of Tears by Roberta Trahan
From the back cover description of The Well of Tears by Roberta Trahan:
More than five centuries after Camelot, a new king heralded by prophecy has appeared. As one of the last sorceresses of a dying order sworn to protect the new ruler at all costs, Alwen must answer a summons she thought she might never receive. Bound by oath, Alwen returns to Fane Gramarye, the ancient bastion of magic standing against the rise of evil. For alongside the prophecy of the benevolent king, a darker foretelling envisions the land overrun by a demonic army and cast into ruin. Alwen has barely set foot in her homeland when she realizes traitors lurk within the Stewardry, threatening to destroy it. To thwart the corruption and preserve her order, Alwen must draw upon power she never knew she possessed and prepare to sacrifice everything she holds dear—even herself. If she fails, ... Read More
The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins
In this urban fantasy with a twist — set in the Wild West in wintery Colorado — monster hunters Cora and Ben are hired to deal with an unknown beast that slaughtered some wolf hunters in the mountains. As they investigate, they realize that they are looking for a beast neither of them is familiar with. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the evil beasties lurking in them thar hills.
I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy these days for a few reasons. When I think of the urban fantasy subgenre, I think of Charles deLint and Emma Bull, instead of tattooed back-baring weapon-wielding lovelies... Read More
Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce
Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce is just odd. For one thing, the book is fully titled as Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog, and while I don’t have a problem with long titles in general — see my love for Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland books, or Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede’s collaborations — the problem with this title is the same problem I had with the book. It’s just trying to contain too many things. Also, stop spelling magic with a K.... Read More
A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford
Full disclosure: I didn't finish this book. I didn't even get that far in. But I'm a firm believer that life's too short to read bad books. A Touch Mortal hit one of my biggest peeves about YA paranormal romance, and it hit it really quickly.
It starts out with what could be an interesting premise: teenage Eden is somehow slipping from the minds of everyone around her, and doesn't know why her friends and family are ignoring her. She's depressed about this and contemplating suicide when she meets two young men on the beach. One of them picks her up with some cheesy lines, and we're off to the Insta-love Races.
In this case, it's not even exactly insta-love, but love that is almost entirely developed offscreen. Eden and Az have one date, then the narrative jumps ahead two weeks for some reason, and now they're in love. Eden is young and inexperienced, so I sor... Read More
Liahona by D.J. Butler
It’s the days leading up to the Civil War, and both the North and the South are desperate to bring the Kingdom of Deseret, with President Brigham Young, in on their side. Both forces send envoys to the remote kingdom, hoping to secure the allegiance of the Mormons and their rumored phlogiston weaponry. The British Empire is also seeking to secure the favor of Deseret, and Samuel Clemens, Edgar Allen Poe, and the famed British explorer Richard Burton all set out from Fort Bridger in a desperate race to the Salt Lake Valley. Throw in a dwarf, some Pinkerton detectives, a woman who may or may not be a spy, flesh devouring beetles, and giant steam-powered carriages, and you have a non-stop action adventure.
The description of Liahona, the first novel in the City of Saints series by D.J. Butler, enticed me into picking it up. I like steampunk and I als... Read More
The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein
When I was a kid I loved some of Robert A. Heinlein’s “Juveniles” — science fiction stories for children and teens. Red Planet was one of my favorites and I must have read it at least five times. These novels are part of the reason I kept reading science fiction — they left such an impression on my young mind.
Despite this nostalgia, I haven’t read Heinlein in years. When Blackstone Audio recently started releasing some of his later novels on audio, I thought it was time to check out some I’d never read. The first one I tried was The Number of the Beast, written in 1980 after a seven-year hiatus brought on by ill health when Heinlein was in his seventies.
This story starts when professor Zebadiah John Carter meets Deety (short for Dejah Thoris) Burroughs and her father, mathematician Jacob Burroughs, at a ... Read More