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Haunted: More teenage drama than plot

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Haunted by Meg Cabot

Haunted (2003) is the fifth novel in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series. You’ll want to read the previous books first: Shadowland, Ninth Key, Reunion, and Darkest Hour.

In my review of Darkest Hour I said that the series was getting more complex after we meet a guy named Paul (sup... Read More

Under the Pendulum Sun: I’m looking forward to Ng’s NEXT book

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Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

Laon Helstone is a British missionary to Arcadia, the recently discovered land of the fae. Laon hasn’t been heard from for a while, so his sister Catherine sets out to find him, travelling alone (but with the approval of the Catholic church) to Arcadia. When she arrives at the house where Laon has been living, she finds out that he hasn't been seen there in quite a while, but is expected home soon.

As Catherine waits, she befriends a couple of the house’s residents and learns that the fae aren’t too interested in hearing the Gospel. Most don’t see themselves as needing salvation. Catherine also spends time studying the journals of the first (mysteriously deceased) missionary to Arcadia. They may contain important secrets about the nature of the universe and God’s relationship to the fae.

There’s a lot to like in Jea... Read More

The Snail on the Slope: “Entirely inaccessible to the general reader”

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The Snail on the Slope by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

Chicago Review Press and Blackstone Audio have been translating and reprinting some of the Strugatsky brothers’ works and they’ve sent me review copies. I read Monday Starts on Saturday several months ago but never managed to write a review, which I feel terrible about because I really liked that book. I will try to review it soon.

Being familiar with their style -- which is bizarre, ironic, visually arresting, and funny -- I figured I’d like The Snail on the Slope (1968), too. Not so, but it was a close thing. I loved each individual sentence that the Strugatskys composed, and even some complete scenes, but when everything was put together, I could make no sense of it. The Snail o... Read More

Long Hot Summoning: Diana tackles an evil shopping mall

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Long Hot Summoning by Tanya Huff

Long Hot Summoning (2003) is the third and final book in Tanya Huff’s KEEPER’S CHRONICLES. It’s advisable to read the first two books, Summon the Keeper and The Second Summoning first.

Claire’s sister Diana has just graduated from high school and is off on her first summoning. It leads her to the local indoor shopping mall, where she discovers that evil forces are quietly infiltrating the mall, where they hope to gradually create a segue into our world. Diana is the strongest keeper alive, but even she is not confident... Read More

The Parafaith War: Interesting premise, too many problems

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The Parafaith War by L.E. Modesitt Jr

In our far future, a young man named Trystin Desoll is a soldier in the long war that his high-tech civilization has been fighting with the Revs, a society of religious zealots. The Revs, who are outgrowing their own planet, believe that the Eco-Techs are sinful because they use brain implants and other technology to improve their bodies. Therefore, the Revs think it’s permissible for them to wipe out Trystin’s civilization, and they’ve been trying to do this for decades.

Trystin is rising rapidly in the Eco-Tech military. He’s smart and courageous, but he also feels like he has an extra burden to prove himself because, being blonde and blue-eyed, he looks a lot more like the Revs than the dark-haired, dark-eyed people of his own society.

All this — his intelligence, bravery, and coloring — make Trystin the perfect spy. When... Read More

Sidney’s Comet: A too-ambitious debut

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Sidney's Comet by Brian Herbert

A lot of Brian Herbert's bibliography consists of collaborations with other authors. There is Man of Two Worlds, written in collaboration with his father Frank Herbert, the Dune sequels, written with Kevin J. Anderson, and a couple of books written with Marie Landis. I haven't read Man of Two Worlds yet, although I do own a copy signed by Brian Herbert. I have read a stack of the Dune sequels, which range from entertaining to horrible, and I can't say I liked Hellhole Read More

The Second Summoning: Some great characters, but a little too silly

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The Second Summoning by Tanya Huff

Note: This review will contain mild spoilers for the previous book, Summon the Keeper.

I was entertained by Tanya Huff’s first KEEPER’S CHRONICLES novels, Summon the Keeper, about a woman named Claire whose job, as a Keeper, is to travel around closing evil holes in the fabric of the universe when they pop up around Canada and the US. In Summon the Keeper, Claire and her talking cat (Austin) were “summoned” to a bed & breakfast which was endangered by a portal to Hell that had opened in the furnace room. I liked the... Read More

The Freeze-Frame Revolution: Doesn’t feel complete

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The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts

Having never read one of Peter Watts’ novels before, I thought a short novel like The Freeze-Frame Revolution (2018) would be a good place for me to start. After all, I like science fiction, generation-style ships, rogue AIs, and solid narratives about mutinous crews. Watts delivers on those elements and many more, but the story never really coalesced for me, and I had trouble connecting with the narrator.

Over the last sixty million years, Sunday Ahzmundin and the rest of the Eriophora’s crew have been traveling the galaxy, harvesting usable materials from ... Read More

The Anubis Gates: A very generous book

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Tim Powers' fourth novel, 1983's The Anubis Gates, is a book that I had been meaning to read for years. Chosen for inclusion in both David Pringle's Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels and Jones & Newman's Horror: 100 Best Books, as well as the recipient of the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award in 1984, the book came with plenty of good word of mout... Read More

The Eterna Files: Couldn’t entice me to move on to book two

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The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber

Just after President Lincoln’s assassination, his wife Mary sets a governmental task force to find a cure for death, thus setting in motion the plot of The Eterna Files (2015) by Leanna Renee Hieber. Seventeen years later, the science team working on the Eterna Compound is mysteriously murdered, as is a parallel team in England, where Queen Victoria wants Britain, not America, to be the first to discover an answer to mortality. Both countries seek to find out what happened to their teams, as well as learn what the other nation has or has not discovered. In America, sensitive Clara Templeton is the main protagonist, helped by a small group of fellow paranormals, including her ... Read More

Tool of War: Augmented YA

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Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi’s Tool of War (2017) is the third entry in a series of futuristic novels in which catastrophic climate change projections have come to pass. The American seaboard is flooded, and the United States government has been overtaken by transnational organizations. The most stunning technological breakthroughs are in gene editing, and elite organizations own “augments,” creatures that are part human and part animal, part slave and part soldier. The main character here, Tool, is the greatest of the augments because he can defy his training and act independently. Who knows what he might be capable of?

Tool of War is also a sort of augment, part YA and part techno-thriller. Unlike the best techno th... Read More

White Sand Volume 2: Too wordy

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White Sand Volume 2 by Brandon Sanderson

White Sand Volume 2 is, like most graphic works, a team effort: the story is by Brandon Sanderson, the script by Rik Hoskin, the art from Julius Gopez and Julius Otha, the coloring by Morgan Hickman and Salvatore Aila Studios, and the lettering by DC Hopkins. Unfortunately, in my case, quantity did not equal a quality experience.

One problem is I’m not sure Sanderson’s storytelling translates well into the graphic form. Though there are certainly exceptions (The Rithmatist for one excellent example), his works tend to be sprawling, long, dense, introspective, and highly political, none of which really screams out for a graphic treatment. In this particular case, White Sand can be quite wordy, so t... Read More

The Dark Intercept: Doesn’t hold together

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The Dark Intercept by Julia Keller

The Dark Intercept (2017) by Julia Keller is another teen dystopia, and while it has at its core an intriguing concept, bolstered by a few well written passages, overall it feels only partially thought through, with the reader skating too far out on the thin ice of weak characterization, flimsy world-building, and poor plotting, until finally falling through.

Sixteen-year-old Violet Crowley lives (say this in Trailer Guy voice, please) in a world that has been divided into the haves of New Earth, floating above the planet in a perfect community, and the have-nots of Old Earth, stuck on the pollution-ravaged, crime-ravaged, disease-ravaged, well, just ravaged former home to humanity. Violet is not just a resident of New Earth, she’s the daughter ... Read More

Your One & Only: Entirely too familiar

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Your One & Only by Adrianne Finlay

While it’s debatable whether there are any new stories left to be told, I think that discovering fresh ideas or interesting twists within familiar stories is part of what makes reading so enjoyable. Aldous Huxley certainly didn’t create the Dystopian genre with Brave New World, nor did Lois Lowry with The Giver, and neither did Kazuo Ishiguro with Never Let Me Go Read More

Sinless: Aims for more than superficiality, but misses the mark

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Sinless by Sarah Tarkoff

In many ways, Sarah Tarkoff’s debut novel Sinless (2018) follows the Dystopian YA rule book: a young woman in the near future discovers that the seemingly-idyllic world she lives in is built upon a foundation of lies, and in the process of deciding how best to fight back, discovers previously untapped depths of pluck (as well as previously-unrequited feelings for a dashing and rebellious young man from her childhood). This specific young woman is Grace Luther, the daughter of a well-connected American cleric, and her world is one of beauty and service to the Great Spirit, who made its presence known gradually around the globe in the years 2024-2025. People who are pure in thought and deed are gifted with glorious good looks, while people who transgress instantaneously experience a range of punishments from disfiguring ugliness to a sl... Read More

Merlin’s Bones: Needs fleshing out

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Merlin’s Bones by Fred Saberhagen

We raided the used bookstore the other day and this was one of my prizes; as sometimes happens when I visit the used bookstore and pick up a book by an author whose name I consider a guarantee of quality, I discovered when I got home that I had actually read Merlin’s Bones before — perhaps fifteen years ago, in this case. It took about three chapters to be sure, by which time I was merrily embarked and enjoying the story, so I didn’t mind. I did have, however, a small uneasiness — I recalled having been unimpressed with my previous read, though I didn’t remember why.

The story is set in two times: the first is medieval England, where a boy named Amby and his troupe of traveling players are attempting to escape the attentions of a warlord who their (the troupe’s) leader insulted on-stage and find themselves in a ver... Read More

Winds of Change: Boring middle book

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Winds of Change by Mercedes Lackey

Winds of Change (1992) is the middle novel in Mercedes Lackey’s MAGE WINDS trilogy, which is part of her larger VALDEMAR saga. I wasn’t impressed with the first book, Winds of Fate, which was a standard high fantasy novel that didn’t stand out in any way. I decided to read book two anyway because I already owned it at Audible and I wanted to review it for FanLit.

In this sequel, Elspeth and Skif are living with the Tayledras clan. The novel starts with quite a bit of recap of previous events and then the preparation for a ceremony in wh... Read More

An Ember in the Ashes: A soldier and a slave. Neither is free.

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

The hype surrounding An Ember in the Ashes (2015) around its release was impressive, to say the least. Classed as Epic Fantasy, the book quickly became a bestseller on multiple lists and rights have been sold across thirty countries. Film rights were sold in a seven-figure deal (seven!) well before the book's publication. A sequel was bought almost immediately thereafter. With these kinds of stats, is a book ever going to be able to live up to itself?

Laia is a slave under the Martial Empire. She comes from a group known as the scholars — a class of oppressed people who are enslaved by the Martials. Elias is a Martial, the group that makes up the brutal ruling class of the Empire. He is about to graduate as one of its elite soldiers, referred to as 'Masks' due to the metallic mask that will eventually infuse to his skin. The... Read More

The Fall of the Kings: This book vanished like a ship in the Bermuda triangle, and I think I know why

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The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman

Ellen Kushner published Swordspoint in 1987. It gathered a swarm of fans who loved the prose, the magicless world with its glittering veneer and cloak-and-dagger intrigue, and the love story at its center. Readers clamored to know more of steadfast, enigmatic swordsman Richard St.Vier and his lover, the brilliant, neurotic noble Alec Campion.

In 2003, Ellen Kushner, writing with Delia Sherman, published The Fall of the Kings. Although it was nominated for a Mythopoeic Award and a Locus Award, The Fall of the Kings... Read More

Horizon: A disappointing conclusion to a frustrating series

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Horizon by Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde has had me on the fence throughout her Bone Cities trilogy — book one (Updraft) had some issues but I thought it just tipped the needle over into the positive. Book two (Cloudbound) had more issues, which sent the needle just over the line in the other direction, leaving me wondering at the end if the third time (Horizon) would be the charm that saves the series. Having just finished it, I reluctantly have to say it is not. In fact, I’m even more sad to report, Horizon (2017) may have been the weakest of t... Read More

Dragon Teeth: Palaeontologist wars

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Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

As anyone who reads the dust jacket will realize, Michael Crichton’s Dragon Teeth (2017) is about dinosaur fossils and the obsessed palaeontologists who traveled into the American frontier during the Gilded Age to gently dig them up. Sadly, it’s not about dinosaurs eating people.

William Johnson is a student at Yale. The son of a wealthy Philadelphia family, Johnson goes west to win a bet against his rival. He joins Professor Marsh, an eccentric and paranoid man who specializes in the bizarre new science, palaeontology. It turns out that Johnson has entered the “Bone Wars” between Marsh and his nemesis, Edward Cope. Although I spent most of the novel expecting Johnson and his company to end in a gunfight against Sitting... Read More

THE ASSASSIN SERIES: Three horror novellas by Tim Lebbon

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Dead Man’s Hand, Pieces of Hate, A Whisper of Southern Lights by Tim Lebbon

The three novellas Dead Man’s Hand, Pieces of Hate, and A Whisper of Southern Lights make up Tim Lebbon’s ASSASSIN series. They were originally published in 2004, 2005, and 2008 by Necessary Evil Press but were reprinted by Tor.com in 2016. Tor packaged the first two stories together under the name Pieces of Hate.

The ASSASSIN series tells the story of a man named Gabriel who has, for centuries, been hunting Temple, a demon who slaughtered Gabriel’s family. Gabriel can feel when he is close to Temple and uses this sense to follow ... Read More

The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent: Liberals will hate it

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The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent by Larry Correia

The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent is a fun, silly, sometimes clever, sometimes hilarious, sometimes stupid story with lots of geeky SFF in-jokes. Some readers will absolutely adore it while others will absolutely loathe it.

As the story begins, one of the Earths in the multiverse is being overrun by Purple People Eaters who are (of course) eating people. Fortunately, this particular Earth has a policy with Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent. He’ll take care of it quickly and easily because if there’s one thing that Tom Stranger is serious about, it’s excellent customer service. That’s why he’s really annoyed that his new intern is a sissy Millennial crybaby who maj... Read More

The Curse of Sleeping Beauty: A vaguely diverting waste of time

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The Curse of Sleeping Beauty directed by Pearry Teo

Is this a good movie? No. Is it a fairly entertaining way of filling in a rainy afternoon? Sure.

There are actually a lot of things about The Curse of Sleeping Beauty I enjoyed: it has a unique visual style that's a sort of fantasy/steampunk mash-up, and a story that's half-horror, half-fairy tale (with a dash of ghost story thrown in for good measure). The acting ain't bad, and though the twist is pretty obvious, I felt satisfied at having correctly guessed what it would be.

And look at that cover art on the DVD! Gorgeous.

Thomas is your standard beefcake artist haunted by strange dreams of a creepy house and a beautiful slumbering girl. Diagnosed with sleep paralysis, he's isolated and anti-social, with little understanding of what his dreams could mean.

Then he finds out he's the beneficiary of an ... Read More

Lost Stars: Lost interest

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Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Lost Stars (2015) is not in want of a good premise. The story takes place over the course of events in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. It chronicles the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire and the struggles of two star-crossed individuals as they try to find their place within the changing political environment of the galaxy. The aristocratic Thane Kyrell and lowly labourer Ciena Ree both reside on the Outer Rim of planet Jelucan. Whilst their backgrounds couldn't be more different, the childhood friends both have one thing in common: they love to fly. As teenagers they are both accepted into the Imperial Academy and train as TIE fighter pilots and are both (unsurprisingly) star flyers. But thei... Read More