A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell
Juliet Blackwell’s WITCHCRAFT MYSTERIES hasn’t let me down. This is a solid series with a fun setting and great characters. Tantor Audio’s versions read by Xe Sands are terrific and I’m certain that her narration adds a lot to my enjoyment. Honestly, I’ve got a bit of a voice crush on her. I wouldn’t think of reading these books any other way.
In A Vision in Velvet, the sixth installment, Lily’s vintage clothing store is thriving, she has made friends with her neighbors on Haight Street, and she’s got a steady romance going. Life is pretty good. But, of course, soon enough Lily manages to get wrapped up in another murder mystery. This one involves a trunk full of old clothes, a velvet cape, a dying tree in Golden Gate Park, some scientists, psychedelic frogs, The Crucible, and an ancient curse. The mystery ge... Read More
A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell
Neverwas by Kelly Moore, Tucker & Larkin Reed
OK, first things first. What a beautiful cover!
The book graced by this lovely cover is Neverwas, the sequel to Amber House by mother-and-daughters team Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed. In the previous book, teenaged Sarah Parsons altered the past to save the lives of her younger brother and her aunt.
As Neverwas begins, it becomes clear that Sarah changed more than just that. The entire United States is different from the one we live in — in fact, there is no United States per se, but several loosely connected countries, and Amber House is situated in one where racial segregation still exists. Meanwhile, in Europe, Nazis reign. “WTF?” you might ask. What did Sarah do in the past that messed up the entire world this badly?
That’s the question Sarah ... Read More
Batman and Robin (vol 4): Requiem for Damian (New 52) by Peter J. Tomasi
DC did a soft reboot of their universe almost three years ago. It's called the New 52, and Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi is one of my favorite books, particularly volume one, which I liked so much I taught it in my college English class. Overall, the entire series has been incredibly consistent. Even if you didn't know that Batman has a son named Damian who is the most recent Robin, you can still read and enjoy this series because it deals with significant themes and not just with superhero action. Volume one deals with Damian's coming of age in his rebellion against his father, as well as Bruce Wayne's trying to figure out how to be a loving authority figure to his young son. In events just previous to volume four, unfortunately, poor Damian died... Read More
Veil of the Deserters by Jeff Salyards
Jeff Salyards’ BLOODSOUNDER’s ARC is a fantasy series in the gritty vein: harsh and bloody, though with a bit of humor mixed in. Veil of the Deserters, its second installment, is an interesting blend of political maneuvering and realistic tactical combat in the era of swords and crossbows.
Arki is the historian/scribe for the company of Captain Braylar Killcoin from the Syldoonian Empire. Momentous events have happened in the previous book as CPT Killcoin and his soldiers continue their mission to create chaos in the city of Alespell. For Arki, it’s a culture clash; his background as a highly educated archivist gives him a very different perspective on life and death than the members of the Jackal Tower who employ him. Arki must learn that mercy and justice often have no place in the murky, violent world in which he now lives.
Salyards’ world-building is... Read More
Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards
Arkamondos the scribe has just been given a new and unusual commission. He’s been hired by a notorious band of Syldoon soldiers to travel with them and observe and transcribe their adventures. The leader of this motley crew is Captain Killcoin, a brooding authoritarian figure whose weapon of choice is a frightening looking flail that has magical properties. Killcoin is accompanied by a few loyal companions who are just as scary and tough as he is. Arkamondos is intimidated by all of them, and he wonders if he’s made a big mistake, but Killcoin’s insistence that important events are about to occur makes Arkamondos decide that it will be best for his career if he stays... Plus, they’ll probably kill him if he leaves.
So off he goes with Killcoin’s band. They are coarse and vulgar but their dialog is frequently sharp and witty. There is much drinking, cursing, barfing, bleeding, piss... Read More
Heart of the World by H. Rider Haggard
Although I had previously read and hugely enjoyed no fewer than 40 novels by H. Rider Haggard, I yet felt a trifle nervous before beginning the author's Heart of the World. I had recently finished Haggard's truly excellent novel of 1893, Montezuma's Daughter — a novel that deals with the downfall of the Aztec empire in the early 16th century — and was concerned that Heart of the World, which I knew to be still another story dealing with the Aztecs, would necessarily be repetitive. As it turns out, however, I needn't have worried. Despite the Aztec backdrop, the two novels are as dissimilar as can be; whereas the first deals with an Englishman witnessing the Indian conflicts with Cortes from 1519 - 1521 and the fall of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, Heart of the World takes place a good three centuri... Read More
Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
Babel-17 won the 1966 Nebula award for best novel, tying with Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon. Samuel Delany’s space opera novel is dated in many ways, but still holds up.
In the future, humans have colonized many star systems. Currently, the Alliance is engaged in a war with the Invaders, who, despite the name, are also human. The Alliance has intercepted many dispatches in a code they can’t break. They’ve labeled it Babel-17. Desperate, they turn to the inter-galactically renowned poet Rydra Wong to help them decipher it.
Wong is in her late twenties, a linguistic, semantic and telepathic genius, a starship captain, and so compelling that the general who meets with her falls in love with her almost instantly. There is more than a bit of fantasy wish-fulfillment in this character. (Don’t believe me? Say this out loud: “... Read More
The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man by Lloyd Alexander
No one does it better than Lloyd Alexander. One of his early children’s chapter books, The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man contains all of his trademark wit, wisdom and warmth, as well as a valuable lesson and plenty of delightful characters.
After giving his cat the gift of speech, the magician Stephanus is now harangued by requests to turn him into a man. Lionel is desperately curious about the world of mankind, despite his master’s low opinion of the folk who live in the nearby town of Brightford -- according to him he once built a bridge for the whole townsfolk to share, only for the Mayor to seize control of it and place a toll over it. Stephanus left in disgust after that, and hasn’t returned since.
But Lionel won’t be deterred, and Stephanus grudgingly grants him his wish. Soon enough a tawny-haired, green-eyed you... Read More
The Wild Shore by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Wild Shore is the first book of Kim Stanley Robinson’s THREE CALIFORNIAS trilogy. Each book covers a possible future of Orange County, the place where Robinson grew up. The Wild Shore was first published in 1984 and was his first full-length novel. I wasn't sure if the concept would appeal to me. Would it get repetitive? I decided to give the first one a go anyway. I always liked post-apocalyptic settings so this first book probably suits me best. No regrets after reading it. The Wild Shore is a very good read.
The story is set in California after crippling nuclear strikes against the US have laid the nation to waste. The details of these attacks remain unclear, but we do know that it took place in the mid 1980’s and that the US did not retaliate. Their technological foundation was completel... Read More
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by A.J. Hartley
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel, a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet by David Hewson and A.J. Hartley, is fairly straightforward. It doesn't depart from the basic plot events or thematic issues as we are familiar with them in Shakespeare, nor is it particularly inventive in language or structure. This surprised me at first, as I expected a meta or avant garde treatment of this most classic of texts. (Thinking about it, I was probably unconsciously expecting a more Stoppard-esque adaptation.)
What this book does do is deepen the characterization of each of the major characters. In Hewson and Hartley's version, we understand the myriad reasons for Old Hamlet's murder, for Fortinbras' invasion of Denmark, for young Hamlet's halting confusion. We get a lot of backstory, as well -... Read More
Viminy Crowe's Comic Book by Marthe Jocelyn and Richard Scrimger with comics by Claudia Davila
Viminy Crowe's Comic Book is a great book for young adults, but oddly enough, it's not really a comic book. However, it will certainly appeal to those who love comics because the story is about two children who get pulled into a steampunk comic book. Young Wylder Wallace meets a girl his own age, Addy, at the Toronto International Comic Book Festival, and they immediately dislike each other, which creates a nice tension between the two main characters of the story. Wylder, a big fan of a comic book by Viminy Crowe, soon finds out that Addy is this great artist's niece. The rest of the book tells the story of their being forced to work together and even... Read More
Shattered by Kevin Hearne
When Kevin Hearne’s IRON DRUID CHRONICLES series started with Hounded a few years ago, the story starred Atticus O’Sullivan, the world’s last druid, and his funny movie-watching Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. In Shattered, the seventh novel (and the first one released in hardback!), we now have two more point-of-view characters. One is Granuaile, the former barmaid who became Atticus’ apprentice and is now a druid in her own right and has her own hound (Orlaith) that she can mind-speak to. The other is Owen, Atticus’ mentor who has just escaped the Morrigan’s time stasis spell. All three of our human POV characters share page space in Shattered as each goes about his or her own dangerous mission.
Atticus spends his time helping Owen acclimate to modern times, getting his magical tattoos fixed, and trying to figure out what Loki is up to and how the gods are linin... Read More
Dust by Hugh Howey
I know I’ve retired from reviewing, but since I reviewed the first two volumes in the WOOL trilogy (the WOOL and SHIFT books) and there isn’t a review for this third one, I thought I would do a little guest review here for my friends at FanLit because nothing sucks more than the first two books in a trilogy being great and then the third one going right off the rails and exploding in a burst of unresolved plot lines and out of character behavior.
Let me just say, that fate has been avoided here. Dust by Hugh Howey is a sizeable story, taking its time to bring together all the different plot lines and hints it’s spent the first two volumes laying out and weaving them together into a satisfying conclusion. All the little things that have been scratching at the back of your head since the first book — why are the levels so far apart? — get answered. I h... Read More
Super Ego by Caio "Zed" Oliveira (author) and Lucas Marangon (artist)
Super Ego is a superhero spoof about a clinical psychotherapist who specializes in the superhuman condition. In order to meet with his super clientele, Dr. Eugene Goodman wears a silver,j reflective, skin-tight mask. Otherwise, he's dressed in suit and tie and goes to a typical-looking office with a stereotype for a secretary. This set-up could result in a very typical type of superhero parody, a sub-genre that's become almost as cliché as the superhero genre itself. However, Oliveira's dialogue and clever plot twists make Super Ego far better than most other parodies of this type.
Central to the superhero parody is making fun of famous characters... Read More
Coffin Hill (Vol 1); Forest of the Night, by Caitlin Kittredge, Art by Inaki Miranda
The northeast United States gets quite a bit of attention in the horror genre (and fantasy). Stephen King has clearly made the state of Maine Weird Central, USA, but Irish writer John Connolly has added his bit of strange darkness to the Maine woods as well. Paul Park starts his Romania Quartet in Massachusetts, and now Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda add to the creepy-otherness quotient with the trade collection comic Coffin Hill: Forest of the Night.
Vertigo is DC Comics’s line of works for adult readers. The themes in Coffin Hill are adult themes and there is plenty of sex, nudity and rough language. All of that is in servic... Read More