The B.P.R.D (Vol. 2).: The Soul of Venice and Other Stories: Great stories without Hellboy

The B.P.R.D.(Vol. 2): The Soul of Venice and Other Stories by Mike Mignola (writer) & various writers and artists

The B.P.R.D.: The Soul of Venice and Other Stories opens with the title story, a tale about the four main B.P.R.D. agents without Hellboy: Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, Roger, and Johann Kraus, who are overseen by direction Kate Corrigan. They are called in to solve the problem when pipes start exploding in Venice and domestic disturbances spike in occurrence. They are drawn to paranormal activity in a house of ill-repute back in the thirteenth century, a house that once was the site of a rich playboy and a vampire who had become friends. Spirits, and more, linger there.

In “Dark Waters,” the B.P.R.D. team is called to a small town where three dead women are found at the bottom of a pond that is being removed from the city center. Abe and Roger go to investigate the three oddly well-preserv... Read More

The Death of Kings: Julius comes into power and loss

The Death of Kings by Conn Iggulden

Julius is a young soldier. He fights in northern Africa, but he is not in command. Still, he is very well trained, is charismatic and trusts his instincts, and he is beginning to learn what it means to command and why he loves everything Rome stands for. He is confident, idealistic, and capable, a potent combination that leads to many victories. By the end of the novel, he will deal with Spartacus and Sulla, pirates, and senators who wish him ill. He will taste true power, love, and loss.

Published in 2004, Conn Iggulden’s The Death of Kings, the second of four entries in the EMPEROR series (after The Gates of Rome), is a work of historical fiction, though it’s just... Read More

The Lost City of Faar: An underwater adventure for Bobby Pendragon

The Lost City of Faar by D.J. MacHale

Note: The first paragraph of this review contains minor spoilers for The Merchant of Death.

The Lost City of Faar is the second novel in D.J. MacHale’s popular 10-book PENDRAGON series for teens. In the first book, The Merchant of Death, 14-year old Bobby Pendragon discovered that he is a Traveler — a person who represents a planet and is able to travel through space and time to visit other worlds. The Travelers are trying to stop an evil shapeshifter named Saint Dane from creating chaos in Halla, which consists of everything that exists in all times and places. In that first book, Bobby saved a world called Denduron. When he arrived back on Earth, he found that his family had ceased to exist. His Uncle Press, who is also a Tra... Read More

Grass for His Pillow: It’s impossible not to get swept up by the characters’ plights

Grass for His Pillow by Lian Hearn

We saw myth, legend, folklore and tradition of feudal Japan seamlessly woven in Across the Nightingale Floor, and Grass for His Pillow offers equal richness and storytelling depth. In what marks the second book in the trilogy, Lian Hearn returns to the stories of Takeo and Kaede as they choose their alliances amidst increasing unrest between the clans.

Grass for His Pillow opens with Shirakawa Kaede lying in the temple; she is in the deep sleep Takeo put her in when we last saw her. Upon waking and discovering the departure of Takeo, she resolves to return to her father’s household and to inherit the lands that Lady Maruyama pledged to her before she died at the end of the last book. She feels increasingly sick on her journey and it is not long before Shizuka asks Kaede if she could be pregnant. She c... Read More

Fables: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

Fables (Vol. 2): Animal Farm by Bill Willingham (author) and Mark Buckingham (artist)

Willingham further develops his world.

Animal Farm is the second volume in Fables, a comic book series that presents characters from various “make-believe” lands living the immigrant life in the USA. In Volume One, we met Snow White, the capable vice-mayor of Fabletown, and her rebellious sister Rose Red. In Animal Farm, Willingham pulls back the curtain to show us a few of the problems lurking just out of sight.

Humanoid fables can live... Read More

Undead and Unemployed: Doesn’t take itself too seriously

Undead and Unemployed by MaryJanice Davidson

“Oh. This sucks. This totally and completely sucks. The vampires all hate me and everyone’s trying to kill me!” ~Queen Betsy

Undead and Unemployed is the second book in MaryJanice Davidson’s QUEEN BETSY series. In the previous book, shallow and too fashionably-conscious Betsy died, came back as a vampire, and managed to kill the vampire queen, which makes Betsy the new queen. Her roommates and friends are determined to make sure Betsy gets the kind of royal treatment she deserves, but Betsy has no interest in fulfilling her exalted role. She just wants to work at her new dream job as a salesperson in the shoe department at Macy’s. But when someone starts killing vampires in her city, her consort Sinclair insists that Betsy do something about it.

As I mentioned in my review of Undead and Unwed, the first QUEEN BETSY book, I ... Read More

City of Stars: The Duke is in a Dangerous Mood…

City of Stars by Mary Hoffman

The Duke is in a Dangerous Mood...

City of Stars is the second in Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza series (of which there are currently five installments), following on from City of Masks. The basic premise of the story is based on people known as the Stravagante: a select group of individuals from our world who can transport in their sleep to the country of Talia, an alternative version of Italy in the sixteenth century. Armed with a unique talisman that enables passage between the worlds, the young Stravagante inevitably find themselves caught up in the political intrigue and power-mongering that goes on in the beautiful cities of Talia, whilst simultaneously trying to deal with the repercussions of their normal lives in the waking world.... Read More

Broken Angels: Good noir science fiction

Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan

Three weeks ago I finished Broken Angels, the second book in Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs trilogy. I’ve been struggling with this review ever since. Broken Angels is good noir science fiction. It is well-written. I just didn’t like it.

In some places in the book the timbers of the plot show through the flash-and-dazzle, but that is no more than a nuisance. Kovacs is a believable character in a complicated and exciting situation. The world, Sanction IV, is not well drawn at all, and that is deliberate. Sanction IV’s civil war is is just One More War on One More World. The planet’s people, its history, its culture and its future don’t matter to the people Kovacs works for, or to Kovacs himself for that matter.

On medical leave from the government-sponsored military, Kovacs is drawn into a ... Read More

Beauty Sleep: Short and sweet

Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey

The Once Upon a Time books are short but sweet retellings of old fairytales, written with the general plot of the original story in mind, but in such a way that there are a few surprises along the way (often the story is told in a contemporary setting that has no magical elements, or contains a twist on who the heroine eventually falls in love with). For their target audience they are a treat, and for everyone else, they are a pleasant way to kill a couple of hours.

Out of all the authors commissioned to add their retellings to the series, Cameron Dokey, the author of Belle, Before Midnight and Golden, is probably the best (or at least, my personal favourite). There's something unique about Dokey's ideas concerning the source material and the w... Read More

The Queen of Sinister: Falls flat after promising start

The Queen of Sinister by Mark Chadbourn

The Queen of Sinister, the middle book in Mark Chadbourn's DARK AGE trilogy, introduces a different set of characters from book 1, The Devil in Green. This is a bit surprising, because the author's earlier AGE OF MISRULE trilogy, which describes the events leading up to the start of the DARK AGE books, focuses on the same characters throughout all three books. So, rather than offering a continuing story, The Queen of Sinister feels completely separate from The Devil in Green: it's set in the same world, but features all new characters and at least for now is unconnected to the first novel (although the author's afterword hints that everything will be pulled together in the trilogy's final novel, The Hounds of Avalon Read More

Charlie Bone and the Time Twister: Lots of flaws

Charlie Bone and the Time Twister by Jenny Nimmo

The first Charlie Bone book had lots of basic flaws in it: lack of story or character development, a sense of arbitrariness, an overly familiar feel to it, etc., but the premise was just interesting enough, and the characters' magical “endowments” just quirky enough that one hoped Jenny Nimmo could improve in book two and start putting together a worthwhile series. Sadly, based on this second effort, that hope isn't borne out.

First, Charlie Bone and the Time Twister simply has a careless feel to it. There are far too many places where the author either contradicts herself or tosses in an out-of-the-blue plot moment or arbitrarily assigns an endowment or task to a character. It's almost as if Nimmo herself doesn't care much about the story or its characters. As two quick e... Read More

The Charnel Prince: Flawed but moves story along

The Charnel Prince by Greg Keyes

The Charnel Prince succeeds in what should be the immediate and least of goals for second books in series — it moves the plot along. The book is well-paced, moving quickly through various storylines and transitioning nicely from one point-of-view to another. The shifts occur smoothly and repeatedly act to increase suspense (some may tire of the tactic; it never really bothered me). The different stories are mostly well-balanced, each carrying its own weight in terms of plot and character. Though I'd say one is noticeably weaker than the others, it doesn't act as much of a drag on the book as a whole.

There is no "recap" of The Briar King, but Greg Keyes does a nice job of refreshing the reader's memory without being too obvious and without slowing the book down with a lot of early exposition. The main characters all return, some... Read More

Water: Reunion: Decent sequel

Reunion by Kara Dalkey

In the previous book, the sixteen year old mermyd Niniane (called "Nia" for short), discovered betrayal and conspiracy in her underwater home of Atlantis. With the escape of an evil mermyd named Ma'el and the Farworlder (powerful, intelligent squid-like creatures) that he is telepathically connected to, Atlantis was overthrown and Nia the last living Farworlder were thrown ashore.

Reunion picks up again from the point of view of Corwin, a young man whose master has recently been executed by the tyrannical King Vortigern and is now on the run himself. He makes his meager living as a beach-comber, and one this particular day he finds an extraordinary silvery shell but is soon chased from the shore by a terrible watery beast. He hopes that the shell will bring him some riches, but it is soon stolen by Vortigern's men despite the intervention of Nia herself, come ashore to save the youn... Read More

Gods’ Concubine: OK, now I’m hooked

Gods' Concubine by Sara Douglass

I bought the previous book in this series, Hades' Daughter, because it was based loosely on Greek and British myth. I shelved it for a long time because I hated the characters. I finally, reluctantly, read it again, because I was still interested in its storyline — and realized that despite the characters, I did like the book.

And then I devoured Gods' Concubine in two days, and can't wait until the third installment, which is supposed to take place during the Restoration period.

Gods' Concubine is better than its predecessor. First of all, the plot is more complex. It's less all-battles-all-the-time and has a lot more plotting and politics in it. And secondly, more importantly, the characters are developing splendidly!

Brutus has been reborn this time as William the Conqueror, and his feis... Read More