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Bloodsuckers: When Peter Met Patrick

Bloodsuckers directed by Robert Hartford-Davis

Perhaps I should state at the outset that my only reason for renting out the 1970 British film Bloodsuckers is that it stars two of my very favorite English actors, Peter Cushing and The Avengers's Patrick Macnee, appearing in a theatrical picture together for the first and only time. Well, I suppose that helps to explain my double disappointment with this film, a horror outing without a single shiver, and moreover, one in which Cushing and Macnee share not a single scene together. A fairly incomprehensible, ineptly put-together goulash of a film, Bloodsuckers (aka Doctors Wear Scarlet and the title under which I saw it in its current Something Weird DVD presentation, Freedom Seeker, as well as Incense for the Damned) turns out to be som... Read More

Knight: This series is not recommended

Knight by Timothy Zahn

Knight (2019) is the second book in Timothy Zahn’s SYBIL’S WAR series. You need to read the first book, Pawn, before starting Knight. However, I really don’t recommend either one of these books.

When we left Nicole, Bungie, and Sam in the last book, Nicole had been named Protector of the Fyrantha. Why anyone would want Nicole in charge of that ship is anyone’s guess. She isn’t particularly smart, capable, motivated, or savvy. In fact, she’s the one who may have doomed all of mankind to a life of harsh servitude to an alien race by her actions in the last book, Pawn. (Though this was really the fault of Jeff, who didn... Read More

Aerie: An unnecessary and disappointing sequel

Aerie by Mercedes Lackey

Aerie is the fourth and final book in Mercedes Lackey’s DRAGON JOUSTERS series. This review will spoil some of the plot for the previous three books, Joust, Alta, and Sanctuary, so it’d be best to not read further in this review if you haven’t read those books yet.

I’m convinced that Aerie exists only because Lackey left a thread dangling in the third book, Sanctuary. After the bad guys were defeated and Alta and Tia were at peace, we kind of ... Read More

Seventh Decimate: A sorely disappointing experience

Seventh Decimate by Stephen R. Donaldson

Seventh Decimate (2017) is the first book of Stephen R. Donaldson’s newest series, THE GREAT GOD’S WAR. The story centers on two nations that have been locked for generations in devastating warfare, each having their own version of how the war began. Amika has all the advantages: size, money, population, trading partners, more wielders of magical forces (“decimates”), against the smaller, land-locked, more beleaguered Belleger.

The story, though, opens up with a potential turning point — Belleger’s discovery of how to use the decimate of fire to manufacture rifles and thus kill magisters at a distance. It’s enough to force yet another stalemate, but before they can make enough to truly turn the tide, Bellege... Read More

Realm of Ruins: Definitely not for me

Realm of Ruins by Hannah West

Though billed simultaneously as a stand-alone companion novel and a sequel to Hannah West’s Kingdom of Ash and Briars, I would strongly recommend reading Realm of Ruins (2018) after that novel, as many of the events and characters from the first novel are mentioned in the second, and not having any references for those details tended to distract me whenever they cropped up in the text.

European fairy-tale references abound throughout THE NISSERA CHRONICLES, particularly the ones adapted into Disney movies: Kingdom of Ash and Briars appears to have contained elements of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, while Realm of Ruins has sub-plots taken straight from Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, along with some clear nods to ... Read More

Remembrance: Totally unconvincing and just silly

Remembrance by Meg Cabot

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous MEDIATOR books. If you’re interested in this series, please don’t read this review, but take a look at the first book, Shadowland, instead.

Remembrance (2016), the seventh novel in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series, was published 11 years after fans thought the series was finished with Twilight (though Cabot prepared readers for reentry with the novella Proposal, published just before Remembrance).
... Read More

The Tiger’s Daughter: Give it a shot

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

When I picked up The Tiger’s Daughter (2017), I didn’t know what I was getting into. Written as a long, dramatic letter between two old friends, it is an epic tale of loss, faith, political intrigue, and forbidden love. The Tiger’s Daughter is the debut novel from K. Arsenault Rivera, and set to be the first book in the series titled THEIR BRIGHT ASCENDENCY. The Tiger’s Daughter wends its way from the first time our heroes meet, over their entire lives, and up to the present — where one friend, the empress O-Shizuka, is reading said letter (the letter itself being the bulk of the book) from the other, Barsalayaa Shefali. Both are heirs to very different thrones and handle that knowledge differently — as befit their starkly different upbringings and wider global status. They are ... Read More

The Storm Runner: An unfortunate misstep in this young imprint’s worthy mission


The Storm Runner
by J.C. Cervantes

The Storm Runner (2018) by J.C. Cervantes is the second book put out by Disney-Hyperion as part of their Rick Riordan Presents imprint. Aimed at Middle-Grade readers, the imprint’s goal is to “elevate the diversity of mythologies around the world” and publish “entertaining, mythology-based diverse fiction by debut, emerging, and under-represented authors.” The first, which focused on Indian mythology, was Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi. Here the underlying mythos is Mayan, and while I love that readers will be introduced to a new culture’s stories, which are absolutely fascinating, The Storm Runner is unfortunately a weaker entry for the imprint... Read More

Port of Shadows: A disappointing return to a fan-favorite series

Port of Shadows by Glen Cook

After nearly two decades, Glen Cook has finally returned to his beloved BLACK COMPANY series with an eleventh novel — Port of Shadows (2018) — set between books one and two (The Black Company and Shadows Linger, respectively). I loved this series when I read it ages ago and therefore approached news of a new addition with both excitement and trepidation, as I’ve had some bad experience with authors revisiting beloved series after a long absence. I wish I could say my excitement was rewarded, but unfortunately my trepidation turns out to have been the more accurate response. I’m going to... Read More

Game of the Gods: An ambitious but unsatisfying dystopian adventure

Game of the Gods by Jay Schiffman

Hundreds of years in our world’s future, dystopia prevails, at least in the nation called the Federacy. Judge Max Cone, with a stellar career as a military commander behind him, has spent the last fourteen years as a high judge. One of his duties is to interview young people who want to become formal citizens of the Federacy, guaranteeing them freedom. Most are rejected, sent to border settlements where life is perilous. Now Max is biding his time, taking care of his beloved wife and three young children and quietly planning his personal revenge on the governmental officials who ordered the procedure that essentially lobotomized his wife, a gifted scientist whose research findings threatened the Federacy.

Tensions with other nations and powerful rebel groups are high. While at the trial of a thirteen year old girl named Pique, a citizenship candidate who decided to prove her nearly inhuman talen... Read More

A Phule And His Money: Lacks the appealing qualities of the previous books

A Phule And His Money by Robert Asprin

The first two books in Robert Asprin’s PHULE’S COMPANY series, Phule’s Company and Phule’s Paradise, were fairly amusing and worth my time, especially in the audio formats that have been recently produced by Tantor Audio. However, this third book, A Phule And His Money, which was co-written with Peter J. Heck, was sadly lacking in the qualities that made the previous novels so much fun.

The story begins immediately after the events of Phule’s Paradise. The gang has just saved the Fat Chance Casino from a mob takeover. Life for Capta... Read More

A Closed and Common Orbit: A popular Hugo nominee that bored me

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Warning: This review will contain a spoiler for the previous novel, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. It’s really impossible to talk about A Closed and Common Orbit without this spoiler. However, you don’t need to read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet before reading A Closed and Common Orbit since this sequel focuses on two minor characters from the first book.

Becky Chambers’ debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is immensely popular but I didn’t like it. As I explained in Read More

Blood of Innocents & A Shattered Empire: Execution fades as the story continues

Blood of Innocents A Shattered Empire by Mitchell Hogan

Since I read the last two books, Blood of Innocents and A Shattered Empire, in Mitchell Hogan’s SORCERY ASCENDANT series one upon the other, I’m just going to review them together. There may be minor spoilers for book two (you’ll know which characters survive for instance), but I’ll avoid major spoilers. The takeaway is that the series disappoints in its conclusion, making it one I can’t recommend starting, and so as usual with my negative reviews, this will be relatively brief.

The narrative picks up where A Crucible of Souls ended. Caldan is on the run from Anasoma’s invasion with a group of allies (including Amerdan and Elpidia), though that te... Read More

Sin City (Vol. 5): Family Values by Frank Miller

Sin City (Vol. 5): Family Values by Frank Miller

Family Values is the fifth volume in Frank Miller’s SIN CITY series, and its a serious stinker. Until now, the first four volumes have been consistently well-drawn, distinctive, hard-boiled, and fun in a mean-spirited way. I came in expecting more of that, and was shocked to see almost from the first panels an unmistakable drop in the quality of the artwork, dialogue, and story. Miller is still using his tried-and-true black-and-white palette, but all the details are sketched in whereas before they were precise and clean. He uses ink splashes to indicate rain, which looks cool at first glance but quickly becomes a... Read More

Obsidian: A derivative YA paranormal romance with a hot, super-powered jerk

Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout 

Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian is one of a slew of young adult paranormal romances that were published in the aftermath of the runaway success of Twilight. The plot, therefore, will sound familiar, though some of the details are different: a teenage girl, Katy Swartz, moves to a small town in West Virginia with her widowed mother to make a new start. Katy is a 4.0 GPA student and book review blogger who’s never caused her family trouble and considers herself a reserved and practical girl. Trying to meet new friends, she drops by the house next door and is confronted with a naked, well-muscled chest attached to an unbelievably handsome but annoyed boy her age, Daemon Black, with eyes “so green and brilliant they couldn’t be real” and “full, kissab... Read More

Libellus de Numeros: An admirable goal, but execution doesn’t deliver

Libellus de Numeros by Jim West

Libellus de Numeros by Jim West is a self-published well-intentioned earnest debut middle-grade novel that reads, well, like a self-published well-intentioned earnest debut middle-grade novel. One certainly can’t quibble with its goal, presenting young readers — especially girls — with an engaging fantasy tale that incorporates math into its plot so that the audience might become more interested in mathematics, as well as believe that they too can “do” math (and that they can also be the hero of their own lives). Unfortunately, good intentions do not a well-crafted book make, and though it pains me to say, while Libellus de Numeros might be engaging enough for very young audiences, there are so many more better written novels out there that it’s difficult to recommend.

The plot is relatively simple. The young female pro... Read More

The Scorch Trials: A weak follow-up to a not-so-strong first book

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

I wasn’t a huge fan of The Maze Runner by James Dashner, thinking its frenetic pace was as much weakness as strength and that its characterization was pretty thin (plus there was the whole “let’s not have anyone talk to each other or explain things” pet peeve of mine). I admit, however, that it probably would meet the needs of a particular reader — one who likes fast paced action that blows by any annoying plot holes and who isn’t particularly looking for a lot of in-depth characterization. That same sort of reader will probably find the sequel, The Scorch Trials, just as satisfying, though again, for my own tastes, it falls mostly short of being a good book. It’s going to be impossible to discuss The Scorch Trials without some s... Read More

From a High Tower: Rapunzel as Annie Oakley

From a High Tower by Mercedes Lackey

The most recent addition to Mercedes Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS series of stand-alone retold fairy tales is a version of Rapunzel set in the Black Forest of Germany. Giselle (Rapunzel) is the natural daughter of a poor man who made a desperate deal that required him to give Giselle to a witch when she was born. The witch was an Earth Master who raises Giselle (who turns out to be an Air Master) as her own daughter. One day, when Giselle is locked in her tower bedroom while her mother is out of town, she lets a handsome man climb up her fast-growing golden hair. This turns out badly.

At this point the story loses its Rapunzelness as Giselle becomes a sharpshooter and decides to join Captain Cody’s traveling Wild West Show as an Annie Oakley type character. Since the show is touring Central Europe, Rosamund (the Red Riding Hood monster hunter from Read More

Knight of Shadows: I don’t care anymore

Knight of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

The usual spoiler warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous novels.

This penultimate novel in Roger Zelazny’s famous AMBER CHRONICLES is a mercifully short continuation of the lackluster drama that this series has become since the POV changed from Corwin to his son Merlin.

The story opens after Merlin is fighting a sorcerer named Mask and realizes that Mask is actually his dead girlfriend, Julia. I have to admit that I was surprised at this, though I shouldn’t have been. I fully expected we’d be seeing Julia again, since nobody ever seems to stay dead in this series, but I guess I figured she’d be female when we saw her again. But, Zelazny seems to break all the rules in this story, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that Julia was impersonating ... Read More

Sign of Chaos: A really bad soap opera

Sign of Chaos by Roger Zelazny

Note: You must read the previous seven AMBER CHRONICLES before picking this one up. Expect spoilers for those previous books in this review.

Sign of Chaos (1987) is book eight in Roger Zelazny’s ten-book AMBER CHRONICLES. It starts right where book seven, Blood of Amber, ended: with Merlin and his frenemy Luke in the midst of an LSD drug trip that has conjured up the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. (Zelazny delights in literary allusions. Expect plenty of Lewis Carroll, Shakespeare, Kuttner & Moore, as well as Arthurian legend and Celtic mythology.)

When Merlin finally escapes Wonderland, he is once again plunged into the political and personal machinations of his extended family, including step-brothers and half-brothers, a couple of bastards, and some people who will undoubtedly be revealed in the f... Read More

A Case of Conscience: A Catholic priest faces aliens with morality but no religion

A Case of Conscience by James Blish

Great A-side, dreadful B-side. A Case of Conscience is James Blish’s 1959 Hugo-winning SF novel, expanded from the1953 novella. Part One (the original novella) is set on planet Lithia, introducing a race of reptilians with a perfect, strife-free society and innate sense of morality. However, to the consternation of Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez, they have no religion of any kind. Their morality is inherent, and they have no need of a religious framework to direct their actions.

As a Catholic, Ruiz-Sanchez cannot make heads or tails of this. Without religion, do the Lithians have souls? If so, are they fallen into sin like humans, or still in a state of grace like Adam and Eve? He struggles with this conundrum, as well as the purpose of the expedition to Lithia, which is to determine whether the planet should be exploited for its lithium or quarantined sin... Read More

Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope (Issues #1-6)

Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender (author) & Greg Tocchini (artist)

Low Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope
, written by Rick Remender and drawn by Greg Tocchini has an intriguing concept whereby in our far, far future (it’s actually the deep past relative to the characters in the story) humanity has fled our burgeoning sun by setting up cities in the depths of the oceans, where they await the news from space probes sent out to seek inhabitable planets. Unfortunately, by the time of the storyline, no probes have returned, the air in what appears to be the only remaining city is turning toxic, and its citizens have turned to a nihilistic, hedonistic lifestyle of sex, drugs, and violence as a means of “dealing” with their impending doom.

The story focuses on a single family whose DNA allows them to work an integral “helm suit” and we meet them jus... Read More

The Glass Arrow: Shallow world-building, sloppy characterization

The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons

I was about as close to a Did Not Finish with Kristen Simmons’ The Glass Arrow as I can get without putting a book down, so you can tell already where this review is going to end up.  As usual in these situations, preferring not to belabor the point with regard to what I consider a bad book, I’ll keep this review relatively brief.

Simmons sets her story in a world where women are treated as breeding cattle, basically. They’re bought and sold at auction, painted and sculpted and costumed. Their numbers are carefully managed by census and “reduction when needed,” and those who live in the wild are hunted by Trackers and brought back to the city because these “wild” women have more boy-producing wombs.  The... Read More

Shakespeare in Hell: Should not have been published in its present form

Shakespeare in Hell by Amy Sterling Casil

Shakespeare in Hell is an intriguing title. Think of all it can conjure up - allusions to Milton and Dante, who both had more luck finding stories in the darker realms of the afterlife, and with the villains of their pieces, than with an antiseptic realm of winged creatures playing harps, come to mind; one can imagine Shakespeare choosing Hell as a better stage for his plays and poetry. Or perhaps Shakespeare sinned with his Dark Lady, landing him in eternal flame. Or — well, the possibilities seem endless.

But Amy Sterling Casil has not taken full advantage of the myriad plotlines available to her. We are given no moral structure for this Hell, and no hint of a Deity meting out punishments and rewards. We never do learn precisely why Shakespeare is in Hell, though it does appear to have something to do with the Dark Lady, who is here given the... Read More

Murder of Crows: Worse than the first book

Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

Meg Corbyn, a blood prophet, has finally found a place to belong — among the ferocious shapeshifters called the Others. They love and protect Meg from the man who still hunts her. Meg’s prophetic abilities seem to be getting stronger and she is able to foresee violent interactions between the humans and the Others. Meanwhile Monty, a cop, is trying to defuse tensions before war breaks out.

I didn’t much like Written in Red, the first book in Anne Bishop’s THE OTHERS series. As I explained in my review, Meg is one of the dullest people I’ve ever read about. The only thing that makes her interesting is her addiction to cutting herself, but this is so unpleasant that, rather than making me feel sympathetic for Meg, I just feel revolted. I also didn’t believe in Bishop’s world.

However, I picked u... Read More