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The Mighty Zodiac Volume 1: Starfall by J. Torres

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The Mighty Zodiac Volume 1: Starfall written by J. Torres,  Corin Howell (illustrations), Maarta Laiho (color), Warren Wucinich (letters)

The Mighty Zodiac has a wonderfully cosmic and original premise — the death of a constellation leads to the fall of six stars from the skies and the freeing of the Rabbit Army from the moon. Or as it is put early on:
When the Blue Dragon died, he left the eastern skies vulnerable. Without another dragon to immediately take its place and ascend into the position of the Guardian of the East, six stars fell out of heaven . . . Darkness fell across the region like no one had seen before. The darkness drew out dark creatures with dark designs!
Soon it’s a race between the heroes (the anthropomorphized ani... Read More

Empress of a Thousand Skies: Propulsive plot but a few too many issues

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Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza is a YA space opera that feels a bit like old-time science fiction with a modern sensibility, in that characterization takes a back seat to a plot that can’t really be examined too closely, but those relatively flat characters are a nicely diverse mix in terms of gender and color. Sometimes such a propulsive plot can compensate for, or at least ameliorate somewhat, flat characters, but the plot also had its issues, and so the book didn’t succeed for me, though YA readers may be a bit more forgiving, particularly younger ones.

Years ago, Crown Princess Rhiannon’s father, mother, and sister died in an “accident” that led to her growing up in exiled protection while the galaxy was ruled by Regent Seotra. The book opens up as Rhee, as she’s called, i... Read More

Her Fearful Symmetry: Needed more substance than the ghosts

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Two sets of twins, a disillusioned husband, a grieving boyfriend, one ghost. The lives of Her Fearful Symmetry’s characters are as tangled as they sound, in a drama that will play out amongst the tombstones of Highgate Cemetery. A sticker on the front reminds potential readers that Niffenegger is the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife. Yet let that be the first and last time Niffenegger’s debut novel is mentioned. Her Fearful Symmetry is described as a ‘delicious and deadly ghost story,’ and should be judged in and of itself.

We o... Read More

Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar: Too many fragmentary tales

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Tempest: All-New Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey

Tempest (2016) is the most recent in a lengthy series of light fantasy anthologies set in and around Mercedes Lackey’s well-known Valdemar, is a land where people called Heralds are “Chosen” (read: magically bonded for life) with telepathic white horse-like creatures known as Companions. Once bonded, the pair joins others in traveling and policing their kingdom against wrongdoing, threats and evils of all kinds. While I’m a relative newcomer to the world of Valdemar, I’ve read several other works by Lackey and was impressed by a couple of her short stories of the Companions. Brilliant and heroic telepathic horses! What’s not to like? And many of these stories feature non-Herald humans from all walks of life, as well as gryphons, kryees (huge, intelligent wolves), and firecats (think large, magical, sentie... Read More

The Devils of D-Day: Extraordinary concept; disappointingly delivered

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The Devils of D-Day by Graham Masterton

All the devils and demons that appear in this book are legendary creatures of hell, and there is substantial recorded evidence for their existence. For that reason, it is probably inadvisable to attempt to conjure up any of them by repeating out loud the summons used in the text, which are also genuine. I would like to point out that the Pentagon and the British Ministry of Defense strenuously deny the events described here, but I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. - from the Author’s Note

I had high hopes for Graham Masterton’s The Devils of D-Day. The U.S. Army knew it had to end World War II quickly, and was going all-in at Normandy, France. During the battles following D-Day, the American’s w... Read More

Patterns of the Wheel: Not the right format for this art style and subject

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Patterns of the Wheel: Coloring Art Based on Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time
by Robert Jordan & Amy Romanczuk

Patterns of the Wheel is a posthumous collaboration between late author Robert Jordan, of THE WHEEL OF TIME fame, and officially licensed Wheel of Time™ artist Amy Romanczuk, who has merged phrases or dialogue from many of Jordan’s novels with pysanky, a style of Ukrainian folk art most often seen on brightly-colored Easter eggs. While marketed as an adult coloring book, the black-and-white images and quoted selections from Jordan’s novels are certainly suitable for all ages, though the designs lack the level of finesse I would expect from an officially-sanctioned pr... Read More

The Apothecary’s Curse: An original idea with too many plot elements

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The Apothecary’s Curse by Barbara Barnett

The Apothecary’s Curse, by Barbara Barnett, has wonderful ideas and many interesting elements. In particular, Barnett has a unique thought about the Celtic Faerie. Unfortunately, the story can’t quite support the weight of all the ideas, and the book’s time-jumping structure creates an episodic effect that vitiates the urgency. I don’t think this one succeeds, but I love the imagination at work here.

There are at least two discrete stories in The Apothecary’s Curse. There is a Victorian metaphysical thriller, of sorts, as two men, each immortal, struggle to keep their state a secret, and one of them is imprisoned in Bedlam and tortured. There is a present-day story that wants to be a medical thriller in the style of Robin Cook or Read More

The Nightmare Stacks: This one just missed for me

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The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

In my review of the LAUNDRY FILES book before this one, The Annihilation Score, I noted that there was a lot I liked and a few things I disliked. Unfortunately for me, my experience with The Nightmare Stacks (2016) was the reverse. There were a number of things I enjoyed, but overall I didn’t like this book very much. Charles Stross is a smart, funny, inventive writer, and it distresses me to give this book two and half stars, but it just missed for me, big time. Please note that people on Goodreads are giving it four and five stars, so clearly other people are enjoying more than I did.

I’ve prepared a Power... Read More

The Naked God: Brings this trilogy to a merciful end

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The Naked God by Peter F. Hamilton

Disclaimer: This audiobook, and the series, is extremely popular and has high ratings at Goodreads and Audible. I will explain why I am not enthusiastic about it, but please take my opinion with the proverbial grain of salt.

The Naked God (1999 print, 2016 audio) is the third and final book in Peter F. Hamilton’s NIGHT’S DAWN trilogy. It begins immediately after the events of the previous book, The Neutronium Alchemist which follows the first book, The Reality Dysfunction. At this point in the story, the... Read More

The Brass Giant: Beautiful images and a disappointing main character

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The Brass Giant by Brooke Johnson

At the beginning of Brooke Johnson’s steampunk fantasy-romance novel The Brass Giant (2015), Petra Wade, our protagonist, is a strong-willed young woman with a driving desire: she wants to be an engineer. Specifically, she wants to attend the University and Engineers Guild, which does not admit women. Petra, an orphan, has learned clockwork from an elderly shopkeeper, but her talent for engineering is far beyond that, and she thirsts to use her ability to improve the world.

Emmerich Goss is a wealthy, good-looking University student with copper-colored eyes, and he asks for Petra’s help powering his automaton, which is distinctive because it responds to controls that are manipulated remotely. Eager to prove herself, Petra agrees to disguise herself as a boy and sneak into the University to help him, but soon... Read More

Storm Front: A series to live and grow with

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Reposting to include Tadiana's new review:

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

It is hard to believe that Storm Front, the first book of the Dresden Files, came out more than a decade ago. Jim Butcher introduces his scrappy wizard-detective in this inaugural adventure. That was a more innocent time, and Harry was a more innocent character back then.

Harry is a working wizard in Chicago. He has an office with the word “Wizard” on the door and he advertizes in the yellow pages. (“No Children’s Parties; No Love Potions.”) Harry is the real deal, a powerful magical practitioner, but lately most of his income comes from the Chicago PD, particularly their Special Investigations or SI unit—think “X Files.” Early in Storm Front, his police contact Karrin Murphy requests his help at a shocking murde... Read More

I.D. by Emma Rios

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I.D. by Emma Rios

Emma Rios’ I.D. is a graphic story with a good premise, and some flashes of excellent artwork, but overall the illustration style didn’t work for me, while the characters and plot weren’t developed enough for my liking.

It begins with a trio of seemingly mismatched people conversing in a coffeeshop, and one of those aforementioned flashes of brilliance come via the page after we see a pull-back view of the three at their table. The next page is a series of fifteen close up of eyes, fingers, hands, and coffee cups conveying in wonderfully expressive and economic fashion the discomfort these three feel.

... Read More

The Mysterious Case of Mr. Strangeway: It’s hard to believe in Cherry

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The Mysterious Case of Mr. Strangeway by Karina Cooper

I picked up The Mysterious Case of Mr. Strangeway (2013) because it was free at Audible a while back. It’s the prequel to Karina Cooper’s ST. CROIX CHRONICLES which is set in Victorian London and begins with the novel Tarnished. In The Mysterious Case of Mr. Strangeway, we meet Cherry St. Croix, an opium-addicted tomboyish teenage orphan who lives with a wealthy benefactor and sneaks out at night to earn money to support her addiction. She does this by being a “collector,” which is something like a bounty hunter.

This is the story of her first collection attempt. She must bri... Read More

A Court of Thorns and Roses: Fantasy romance tropes mixed with grit

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

In a fantasy world where humans and faeries have a long and violent history together, there's been an uneasy, armed truce for many years. Feyre, the 19 year old daughter of a once-wealthy family fallen into deep poverty, is the provider for her beaten-down father and two sisters, hunting with bow and arrow to keep her family from starvation. It’s the dead of winter, game is extremely scarce, but she has the good fortune to spot a small doe. Not so fortunately, before she can shoot it an enormous wolf appears and kills the doe. Faeries are known to appear in wolf form, and to kill one is asking for trouble. Still, Feyre, with hatred for the fae in her heart, rationalizes that it’s probably not a faerie, and if it is, she’s doing the world a favor by killing it. So she shoots and kills the wolf with her handy, magic-neutralizing ash wood arrow, and sell... Read More

Cyteen: Exhausting study of clones, identity, and power

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Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh

After enjoying C.J. Cherryh's 1982 Hugo Award winner Downbelow Station, it was a natural thing to move on to her 1989 Hugo winner, Cyteen. I know that Cyteen is a very different creature, of course. It is a hefty 680 pages long, and extremely light on action. In fact, if you removed the extensive dialogue and exposition, I think the story would be about 50 pages long. That means the story had better be pretty compelling or it could be quite an ordeal to get through. Unfortunately, at 36 hours in audiobook format, I found Cyteen to be more of a chore than a pleasure. There’s no question of the seriousness and rigor of its exploration of power politics, the ethics of cloning, genetic engin... Read More

The Sin Eater’s Daughter: In which Sin Eating doesn’t feature

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The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Twylla is an executioner. Though she's been taken from her lowly home to live in the palace, been engaged to the prince, and is wanting of nothing, she is haunted by the people she must kill and resents every moment of her life in the palace. For her skin is poisonous and any person she comes into contact with dies a gruesome and painful death; only the prince is immune to her touch. But everything is not as it seems in the palace and soon Twylla will find herself questioning not only her role but also her faith.


Twylla has a cohort of guards, but when her personal guard falls ill, she falls into the sole care of Lief, a foreigner who is apparently immune to the fear the rest of the kingdom feels for Twylla. He's at ease where others are frightened, and keeps coming dangerously close to touching her where others stay away. Bu... Read More

Daughters of Ruin: An interesting concept, but a muddled execution

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Daughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner

Daughters of Ruin is the debut novel from K.D. Castner and, presumably, the first of four books. This first title focuses on Princess Rhea of the Kingdom of Meridan, shown on the cover in her country’s colors (red and gold) and displaying an ornate set of jewelry which also doubles as her weapon of choice.  The cover art is quite striking, and seems to promise a tale full of intrigue and danger, but I couldn’t see past the narrative missteps and flimsy logic, and Daughters of Ruin never came to more than a disappointment for me.

The plot has a fascinating premise: after long years of war with the neighboring kingdoms of Tasan, Findain, and Corent, King Declan of Meridan declared that he would symbolically adopt one daughter of royal blood from those countries and raise them alongsi... Read More

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish: Amiable but superfluous

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams

The original HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY trilogy was a massive hit, so it was inevitable that fans would clamor for more. The first three books ranged across the galaxy, a wild ride carried along by an eclectic cast of comic characters, held together by Douglas Adams’ droll British humor, intergalactic hitchhiker Ford Prefect, former President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, Marvin the Paranoid Robot, and grounded by befuddled English everyman Arthur Dent. This time Adams has taken a very different tack, returning to that little backwater planet in an unfashionable corner of the Milky Way known as... Earth.

But hang on, you say, Earth was destroyed by the Vogons at the opening of the first book to make way for an int... Read More

Elven Star: Second verse; same as the first

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Elven Star by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

Elven Star, second novel in THE DEATHGATE CYCLE, is almost exactly the same as book one, save that the progression of the plot’s quality is inverted. That sounds confusing, I’m sure, but I will explain. In case the reader didn't look at my review of Dragon Wing, my thoughts were more or less as follows: fun YA premise, good world-building, somewhat simplistic characters, and it all came crashing down into rushed nonsense right at the end. Elven Star has the same fun YA premise, similarly decent world-building, and even more simplistic characters. The only difference is that it starts as rushed nonsense and evens out to something more focused and enjoyable right at the end. All in a... Read More

The Orion Plan: Standard sci-fi diversion

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The Orion Plan: A Thriller by Mark Alpert

A homeless man sleeps fitfully in a park in New York City. He’s startled awake when an object crushes the box that affords him only a modicum of protection for the elements. He clambers out of the box and gapes at a:
black sphere at a center of a pit, half-buried in the mud. It looked like a bowling ball but slightly bigger, about a foot across. Its top half shone in the moonlight ... it was as black as coal and yet its surface gleamed as if it were polished ... it seemed to be glowing.
Joe’s a broken man ... an alcoholic, divorced and separated from his family and now forced from his latest home, however transient it may have been.

Several members of a local Latino gang, led by Emilio, hear the crash and descend on the same location where Joe’s rotting around the object that crashed from the heavens.

Several ho... Read More

The Ringworld Engineers: Boring sequel

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The Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven

In 1970 Larry Niven published Ringworld, a high-concept novel that won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. What mostly captured readers’ imaginations was not RIngworld’s characters or plot, but its setting. The Ringworld is a huge (and I mean HUGE) artificial ring-shaped structure that orbits a star outside of Known Space. Nobody knows who built it or for what reason it was built. The protagonist of the story, Louis Wu, a bored 200 year old human from Earth, is invited on a quest to visit and study the Ringworld. As I mentioned in my review, I thought the novel was talky and a bit dull, but I absolutely loved the Ringworld itself.
... Read More

Unbound: A somewhat weaker continuation of an OK series

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Unbound by Jim C. Hines

Unbound is Jim C. Hines’ third book in his MAGIC EX LIBRIS series, and I had the same response I pretty much had to book two, which was that it is a light sort of fantasy which has issues that are somewhat, but not fully, balanced by the love of the genre evident in the storyline. I noted at the end of my review of book two, Codex Born, that I was worried about a sense of diminishing returns, and I think that is a bit realized here. Book four, Revisionary, has just arrived this year, and I’d say it’s good that it appears to be a concluding volume, though perhaps that should have come a book earlier.

MAG... Read More

Dragon Wing: Not very good

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Dragon Wing by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

The Margaret Weis/Tracy Hickman novels make up one of those corners of the Fantasy genre that you either enjoyed in your teens (and remember fondly)... or you didn’t. I have to admit that I’m of the latter camp, and while I strongly suspect that there was a time when I could have greatly enjoyed Dragon Wing, that time has passed me by. These days, I’m a little too jaded and I’ve read a few too many works in a very similar vein. Dragon Wing isn’t bad, necessarily, but I’d be lying if I said I particularly like it.

It starts well, mind you, as master assassin Hugh the Hand is e... Read More

The 5th Wave: One too many apocalypses in this YA alien novel

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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

An alien apocalypse is Rick Yancey’s take on a new challenge for the plucky heroine prototype that has emerged in the wake of Katniss Everdeen. Whilst The 5th Wave is not quite a dystopia, there is something startlingly familiar about the feisty female lead who attempts to single-handedly take down the alien race that’s oppressing humankind in a post-apocalyptic world. With the film adaptation just released in the US, could this be the next YA mega-franchise?

First things first, how did the world fall to its knees? It seems Yancey couldn’t decide on his weapon of choice to wipe out humanity, so he chose them all. To begin with, there was an electromagnetic pulse that ... Read More

Ruffleclaw: Silly children’s story narrated by the author

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Ruffleclaw by Cornelia Funke

Ruffleclaw is a chapter book (114 pages) recently written and illustrated by Cornelia Funke, the German author and artist whose books (e.g., Inkheart, The Thief Lord, Dragon Rider) are loved by children and adults around the world. Ruffleclaw is translated into English by Oliver Latsch. I listened to the audio version which is read by the author and is just over 1.5 hours long.

Ruffleclaw is a furry red monster who lives under the toolshed in Tommy’s back yard. He thinks humans are icky (he calls them “slimy slugs”) but he loves their food, their cozy beds, and the music that he hears coming from Tommy’s mother’s piano. That’s why, against the ... Read More