3.5

Click on stars to FIND REVIEWS BY RATING:
Recommended:
Not Recommended:

Sin City (Vol. 6): Booze, Broads, and Bullets by Frank Miller

Sin City (Vol. 6): Booze, Broads, and Bullets by Frank Miller 

Booze, Broads, and Bullets is the sixth volume in Frank Miller’s SIN CITY series, and it’s a welcome return to form after the travesty known as Family Values. The artwork is excellent, the stories are tight, and there are hardly any wasted pages (other than the story Rats perhaps). It makes sense since a number of these stories were written earlier. You will find all of Frank Miller’s favorite themes on display: solitary men intent on vengeance, sultry femme fatales, vile criminal lowlifes, and the seedy black-and-white world of Basin City itself. In... Read More

The Bridge: Lucid dreams with a Scottish flair

The Bridge by Iain M. Banks

Iain M. Banks is a versatile Scottish writer, equally skilled in far-future space opera (the CULTURE series), dark contemporary novels (The Crow Road, The Wasp Factory, Walking on Glass), and a host of novels in between. The Bridge is one of his earlier books, and the late author’s personal favorite according to an interview. It was also selected by David Pringle in his Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels. I’ve had it on the TBR list for about two decades, and finally got around to listening to it on audio.

The Bridge (1986) is narrated by Peter Kenny, the highly talented narrator of most of Banks’ novels, who is a master of British and Sc... Read More

Grim Tidings: A satisfying read

Grim Tidings by Caitlin Kittredge

This series is intended to be read in sequence, so this review may contain some spoilers of the first book, Black Dog.

Grim Tidings is the second book in Caitlin Kittredge’s HELLHOUND CHRONICLES. Ava, the human hellhound and her lover, the necromancer Leo, can barely catch their breath before they are hurled into a new set of adventures.

Leo is now, officially, the Grim Reaper, but to fully assume his title he needs the Reaper’s Scythe. He and Ava assume it’s in Reaper Headquarters in Minneapolis, so they head there. Ava has not had a chance to tell Leo that when she was in Tartarus she made a deal with yet another entity, and before she can fix that oversight they are fighting a rebellious reaper named Owen, with... Read More

Wednesdays in the Tower: Secrets of a magical castle

Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George

The adventures of Princess Celie, who lives in a magical castle where rooms appear, shift around and disappear again, continue in Wednesdays in the Tower, Jessica Day George’s lively sequel to Tuesdays at the Castle. Normally Castle Glower only moves its rooms around on Tuesdays, but one Wednesday Celie, heading up the stairs to go to the schoolroom for lessons, finds herself in a passageway leading to a tower room she has never seen before. And in the middle of the tower room is a huge, flame-colored egg, as large and orange as a pumpkin.

Mysteriously, the castle prevents Celie from sharing her exciting discovery with anyone else in her family: the tower room... Read More

Last First Snow: Another enjoyable installment in THE CRAFT SEQUENCE

Last First Snow by Max Gladstone

I will admit upfront that it took me quite a while to get through Last First Snow, the fourth book in Max Gladstone’s CRAFT SEQUENCE, which would seem weird considering how much I enjoyed the other books in the series. At this point, I am just very glad that I did read it. Gladstone may have taken a while to capture my interest, but by the end of the story, I was reminded why I like his work so much.

To begin with, the story in Last First Snow takes place before Two Serpents Rise and happens to be set in the same city, Dresediel Lex, and has characters that carry over from the future into the past. It feels that way because we read about them in the future and now we are reading about them in the past. The coo... Read More

Forty Signs of Rain: A realistic look at environmentalism and politics

Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson

With the quality of special effects improved exponentially, the blockbuster disaster movie appeared in the 90s and hasn’t looked back. Tornadoes (Twister), meteors (Deep Impact and Armageddon), seismic activity (The Core), volcanoes (Dante’s Peak), massive weather events (The Perfect Storm), and, who can forget, Sharknado, have in one way or another tried to capitalize on the potential power of nature to earn a dollar. Opening with a reasonably plausible scientific premise (except in the case of the latter, of course), then quickly cutting to the melodrama and special effects, these films have done nothing to make people aware of the physical laws governing the actualities of our world and the true potential for catastrophe. In writing the SCIENCE IN THE CAPITOL trilogy, Read More

Masks and Shadows: A grand, glorious opera of a fantasy novel

Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis

A selfish prince, a bitter royal wife, a frivolous royal mistress; a lonely widow, a plucky servant girl, a cynical singer; a dastardly plot, a dangerous elemental, a spy, an alchemist (or maybe two); royal banquets, fraught performance rehearsals, and even a bit of cross-dressing at a masquerade ball. Stephanie Burgis’s Masks and Shadows packs in all that and more; there’s Hadyn and the Enlightenment as well.

Carlo Morelli is a castrato, famed throughout Europe for his ethereal voice. Morelli does not seem to mourn the loss of his physical “manhood;” instead he thinks that his peasant parents probably saved his life, rescuing him from starvation. He has prospered from his performances, but his sympathies still lie with the peasant class. On his way to the Esterhaza... Read More

Once Upon a Time in the North: Lee Scoresby meets Iorek Byrnison

Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman

Lee Scoresby, a young Texan aeronaut, and his dæmon, Hester the rabbit, land their balloon in Novy Odense, a frontier harbor in the North. Lee is all but broke, so he goes into town looking for business. There’s no work for an aeronaut, but there is a lot of trouble waiting for an honorable man. Naturally, Lee and Hester wind up in the middle of it.

It turns out that the Larsen Manganese, a mining company, has allied with Ivan Demitrovich Poliakov, a mayoral candidate, as part of their scheme to control of the North. The company’s guards are throwing their weight around Novy Odense, which disrupts honest trade, while Poliakov incites hate against the bears, including one Iorek Byrnison, which distracts from the Northern takeover. Lee winds up siding with the bears and businessmen, even if it means risking a gunfight against Poliakov and the mining company’s agents.
Read More

The Wildings: Exciting adventure with a cats-eye view

The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy

I was telling my friend about my story-in-the-making (it’s about an underground colony of cats!) and he said, “Have you read The Wildings, by Nilanjana Roy? You have to.” Wanting a model for my story — and also intrigued by the premise, a colony of cats in Delhi — I bought it immediately.

The Wildings follows a cat colony in the Delhi neighborhood of Nizamuddin as they encounter two of their biggest challenges in living memory: the appearance of a new and oddly powerful “Sender,” and the incursion of a group of ferocious feral cats into their territory.

The Sender, a cat who can communicate telepathically with other cats and form links for group communication, turns out to be Mara, a kitten who lives with Big Feet (humans) and who is afraid to come out into the world she navigates via her mind. Although t... Read More

Word Puppets: This entertaining collection shows the development of the writer

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal

Word Puppets is a collection of Mary Robinette Kowal’s short fictions. Fans of her GLAMOURISTS series will find not a single one in its pages, and many of these tales are science fiction, with several stories set on Mars. Patrick Rothfuss provides a humorous introduction, and tells us that these nineteen works are in chronological order. This gives the reader a chance to see Kowal’s development as a story-teller.

I am not going to review all nineteen. I will discuss the stories I liked best or found most interesting, with one exception; there is one story that was not successful for me.

Kowal has created a story universe in which the people of Earth colonized... Read More

Wrath of the Bloodeye: Tom gets a new master

Wrath of the Bloodeye by Joseph Delaney

Wrath of the Bloodeye is the fifth book in Joseph Delaney’s very popular LAST APPRENTICE (or WARDSTONE CHRONICLES) series for middle graders. This book has also been released in other countries, such as those in the UK, under the title The Spook’s Mistake.

Tom has been John Gregory’s apprentice for a couple of years now. In the last book, Attack of the Fiend, three witch clans worked together to summon the Fiend (the Devil). Now he roams the earth and would like to kill Tom because the rumor is that Tom will be the most powerful spook in history. Or maybe it would be better for the Fiend if he befriends Tom...
Call me what you will, Tom. I have many names... But none adequately convey my true nature. I... Read More

Silver in the Blood: Gilded Age debutantes’ adventures in Transylvania

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

In 1897, seventeen year old, Louisa (Lou) and Dacia, cousins, close friends, and high society debutantes, are excitedly traveling from New York City to Bucharest, Romania for an extended stay with their Florescu family relatives, on their mothers' sides. Dacia is traveling with her mother’s sister, Aunt Kate, while Lou is traveling along a separate route to Romania with both of her parents.

But their eagerly anticipated trip starts to go wrong. Dacia made the mistake of flirting too much with a young man in London, and now Aunt Kate is restricting her every move. Wolves haunt their train ride to Bucharest and block it temporarily by leaving something unmentionable on the track; a man whom Dacia has never before seen appears and kisses Aunt Kate in a “scandalous” manner. A stranger accosts Lou on the boat to France and accuses her of being "the Wing." And once they reach Bucharest, th... Read More

Arkwright: A solid tale of a persistent science fiction trope

Arkwright by Allen Steele

The concept of a generation ship has circulated in science and science fiction probably since the late 1920s and certainly since the 40’s. The idea is based on an assumption that light speed is a space travel barrier that won’t be overcome and so travel to even the nearest stars will be a journey of multiple generations. The ships that make such a journey will need to be large and need to solve problems of self-sustenance.

Allen Steele delves into this space travel theme with his aptly titled Arkwright, so named after fictional sci-fi scion Nathan Arkwright, whom Steele positions alongside Heinlein, Asimov, and Read More

Patternmaster: Patternists and Clayarks battle for dominance

Patternmaster by Octavia Butler

Patternmaster (1976) was written first in Octavia Butler’s PATTERNIST quartet, but comes last in chronology. It takes place several hundred years after Clay’s Ark (1984), back in the Forsythe, CA territory where the Patternists settled down earlier. Society remains scattered and non-industrial, and power is divided between the Patternists, a network of linked human telepaths who can kill at a distance, and the Clayarks, now completely transformed into intelligent, sphinx-like animals with extreme strength, speed, and agility but no special mental powers. The losers in this future world are the mutes, non-pyschic humans who are treated more like pets or servants by the Patternists.

The story centers on Teray, a young Patternist who is o... Read More

Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee

Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee

Batman: Hush (2002-2003) is a story arc that appeared originally as Batman #608-619. I first saw it as a bound collection at Barnes & Noble when my daughter was shopping for Christmas presents. I knew nothing about internal chronology, but I picked it up and was just stunned by the glossy, dynamic, sensual and powerful artwork of Jim Lee. This guy is really something else, I can understand why he is so popular.

Before reading Batman: Hush I did my homework and read some core Batman titles beforehand: Frank Miller’s Batman: Year... Read More

Mind of My Mind: The rise of the first Patternmaster

Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler

Mind of My Mind (1977) was written second in Octavia Butler’s 4-book PATTERNIST series, and comes second in chronology. However, I think it is less-polished than Wild Seed (1980), which comes earlier in chronology but was written later, after she had more fully developed her ideas about psionic powers, power/control, and telepaths vs. mutes. It’s tough to decide whether readers should approach this series in the order it was written, in order to see Butler’s development as a writer, or by internal chronology, to follow the PATTERNIST story at the expense of uneven writing style/quality.

Mind of My Mind takes place about a century after the events of Wild Seed. Doro, the immortal b... Read More

The Pride of Chanur: What does it mean to be an alien?

The Pride of Chanur by C.J. Cherryh

Cherryh’s The Pride of Chanur combines space opera with some gritty “hard-ish” SF elements in the beginning of a saga that deals with the political and economic ramifications of first contact. In this first volume of the CHANUR SAGA we follow the exploits of a crew of Hani (lion-like aliens) on the eponymous merchant space freighter The Pride of Chanur. Expecting nothing more than a routine run across their trade routes, Pyanfar Chanur, captain of the Pride, imagines the worst trouble she’s likely to have to deal with is her headstrong niece Hilfy. Of course she’s wrong and what was proving to be a rather boring trip becomes deadly as they run across trouble in the form of an alien stowaway while they are docked at the Meetpoint space station.

The reader is thrust into the middle of things which quickly come to a head as Cher... Read More

Staked: Another fun IDC novel

Staked by Kevin Hearne

Note: Contains mild spoilers for previous books in the series.

Staked is the eighth novel of Kevin Hearne’s extremely popular IRON DRUID CHRONICLES. When this series started with Hounded back in 2011, the story focused on Atticus O’Sullivan, a two-thousand-year-old Druid (the last one on Earth) who owned a bookshop in Arizona. Hiding from Aenghus Óg, the Celtic god that wanted to kill him, Atticus was living a quiet life with his hilarious bacon-loving Irish wolfhound named Oberon.... until Aenghus Óg found him. Since then, Atticus has once again become embroiled in godly politics because it looks like Ragnarök is on the horizon and everyone is trying to get into the most advantageous position. Atticus has prepared by training up a pretty girl named Granuaile to be the world’s second druid. He has also freed his mentor, Owen, from ... Read More

Near Enemy: I kinda liked this

Near Enemy by Adam Sternbergh

Book came in the mail. White package. Black letters. Had my name on it, so yeah, I opened it. Not that I wasn’t careful. Near Enemy was the title. Name on the cover said Sternbergh. Rang a bell like I was sitting ringside at the big fight. Turns out I’d seen this guy before. Him and his character Spademan. Now they’re back. Can’t say I’m surprised.

Not that there weren’t any surprises waiting. Like that rich guy getting offed in the limn. The offings not the surprise though. Guys getting’ killed all days all ways in the limn. Dead in the virtual world, just wake up in the real world. Happens all the time. ‘Cept this guy never woke up. Someone figured out how to murder folks in the limn so they stay murdered. People, huh? We’ll f—k up everything, every place. Just give us time.
Read More

Attack of the Fiend: Getting a bit repetitive

Attack of the Fiend by Joseph Delaney

Attack of the Fiend is the fourth novel in Joseph Delaney’s THE LAST APPRENTICE / THE WARDSTONE CHRONICLES series for children. Interested readers will want to read the previous books before reading this one (and probably before even reading this review, since it may contain spoilers for previous books).

As I’ve noted in my previous reviews, this series is gruesome and scary and thus will be absolutely thrilling for some young readers. Children who are easily frightened should probably stay away unless they’re undergoing some sort of exposure therapy.

In this fourth inst... Read More

Jokers Wild: Another WILD CARDS romp

Jokers Wild edited by George R.R. Martin

Jokers Wild (1987) is the third in George R.R. Martin’s WILD CARDS series. The WILD CARDS books are anthologies and mosaic novels set in a shared world and containing a large cast of regular characters. Authors contributing to Jokers Wild are Edward Bryant, Leanne C. Harper, George R.R. Martin, John J. Miller, Lewis Shiner, Walter Simons, and Melinda M. Snodgrass. Each author handles the perspective of a particular character and, under George R.R. Martin’s amazing editorship, the different perspectives and plotlines magically come together to form a cohesive and pract... Read More

The Rhesus Chart: Bob takes on a clan of vampire bankers

Reposting to include Marion's new review:

The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross

The Rhesus Chart is the fifth and most recent novel in Charles Stross’ LAUNDRY FILES. Bob Howard has been moving up the ranks in the Laundry — not due to any particular motivation or ambition on his part, but just because he has managed, so far, to stay alive as he and his fellow agents battle the eldritch horrors who are trying to find their way into our universe so they can eat us.

While doing some data mining in his office one day, Bob happens to notice a small but statistically significant outbreak of an illness that looks like Mad Cow disease in an area of London. Curious, he begins to investigate by consulting a neurologist, looking at cadavers, and tracing the habits of the people who’ve died of the disease. Eventually this leads him to a small group of data a... Read More

Podkayne of Mars: Heinlein gives us a smart feministic mixed-race heroine

Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein

Podkayne (“Poddy”) Fries is a pretty, mixed-race teenager who lives with her parents and her younger brother (Clark) on Mars. We learn about her family and her adventures via the diary entries she writes. Poddy tell us that her family was planning to take a vacation to visit Old Earth, but when there is a mix-up with some frozen embryos, they had to cancel the trip so Poddy’s mother can take care of the unexpected new babies. Poddy is devastated until her Uncle Tom, a man who is a respected politician on Mars, arranges to escort Poddy and Clark to earth on a luxury spaceship.

Poddy is not White.

On the spaceship Poddy and Clark make a friend and get to enjoy extravagant dinners and dances. Poddy learns a lot about how to fly a spaceship and, along the way, readers will learn quite a bit about space travel, including... Read More

An Apprentice to Elves: A primer in in-depth worldbuilding

An Apprentice to Elves by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette

An Apprentice to Elves, the third installment of the ISKRYNE series, is a book that depends on its thick world-building. Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette have created realistic cultures that take some cues from Norse and Roman history and dramatized a cultural conflict between them, at the same time as developing relationships and characters rooted in these cultures. Most of the narrative is set in the Northlands, an icy forested domain whose natural defenses are harsh enough to help the Northmen stay safe. But a new enemy, the fiercely disciplined Rhean, invades from the south, hoping to colonize the Northlands and bring the Northmen under their rule. The No... Read More

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man: Jennifer Lawrence of Arabia

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man is the third volume of the SONG OF THE LIONESS quartet and the weakest volume of the series. Tamora Pierce makes a good effort of exposing Alanna (and thus, the reader) to some of the varying peoples and customs within the Tortallan kingdom and its neighboring countries, but relies too much on the White Savior trope, and the entire book suffers as a result. As I’ve said before, readers should start with the first book, Alanna: The First Adventure and work forward, though Pierce does a great job of summarizing key events from previous books.

The entire SONG OF THE LIONESS series is about old ways changing to make way for the new, and nowhere is that more blatant than in this b... Read More