Let the Right One In: Bye, bye, Blackeberg

Let the Right One In directed by Tomas Alfredson

The winner of at least 50 international film awards and a popular and critical favorite, the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In is, as it turns out, highly deserving of all the many accolades it has received. Adapted by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his best-selling novel of 2004, the film introduces us to a 12-year-old boy named Oskar, who lives with his mother in a suburb of Stockholm, and who is more than effectively played by newcomer Kare Hedebrant. Oskar's life as a friendless soul who is helplessly bullied at school takes a turn for the better when some new neighbors move into his apartment complex. Eli, who is apparently his age, initially tells Oskar "I can't be friends with you ... that's just how it is," but the two ultimately DO bond, although Eli later reveals that she has been 12 "for a long time." In point of fa... Read More

Godslayer: The bad guys’ story

Godslayer by Jacqueline Carey

I loved the unique world, loveable characters, unusual plot, and sumptuous prose I discovered in Jacqueline Carey’s KUSHIEL books. Most of these elements are also present in her THE SUNDERING duology but, as I mentioned in my review of the first installment, Banewreaker, I found the book easy to admire and hard to love. With its formal style and remote, larger-than-life characters, it reads more like a myth than a story. If you’re in the mood for that type of tale, I’d recommend this duology.

Godslayer is the end of the story started in Banewreaker. (So you‘ve got to read Banewreaker first.) As prophesied, humans and th... Read More

The Jennifer Morgue: Ian Fleming meets H.P. Lovecraft

The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross

The Jennifer Morgue (2006), the second novel in Charles Stross’ LAUNDRY FILES, is a science fiction spy thriller that’s an obvious homage to Ian Fleming and H.P. Lovecraft. Bob has been sent to the Caribbean to try to find out why Ellis Billington, an evil megalomaniac billionaire, is interested in The Jennifer Morgue, a place deep in the ocean which may be an access point into our universe by tentacled eldritch horrors. For this assignment, Bob is paired up with someone from the American agency that deals with this kind of supernatural stuff — a gorgeous woman possessed by a succubus.

As usual, Bob has been insufficiently briefed about his mission, so he’s bewildered most of the time. What is he doing wearing a tuxedo to a casino and ordering vodka martinis (shaken, not s... Read More

Fifty Degrees Below: KSR wades in hip-deep

Fifty Degrees Below by Kim Stanley Robinson

Forty Signs of Rain identified the themes and mode for Kim Stanley Robinson’s SCIENCE IN THE CAPITOL series. As is expected for the middle novel of a trilogy, Fifty Degrees Below (2006) further unpacks the ideas while escalating the story to new heights of excitement. Salting what was a rather tasteless opening, the second novel improves upon the first while launching the story into the third and conclusory volume, Sixty Days and Counting.

Working with the same cast of characters, Fifty Degrees Below opens with Frank Vanderwal having to leave the apartment where he was staying and search for a new home. The flood has receded, but its effects remain. Housing... Read More

Curse of the Bane: Another scary adventure

Curse of the Bane (The Spook’s Curse in the UK) by Joseph Delaney

Curse of the Bane (2005) is the second book in Joseph Delaney’s LAST APPRENTICE series. (The series is confusingly called THE WARDSTONE CHRONICLES in the UK and this book is titled The Spook’s Curse there.) The first book, Revenge of the Witch (The Spook’s Apprentice in the UK) was terrifying and though I really enjoyed it, I warned that it might be too scary for many kids in the target age range of 9-12.

Tom Ward is the thirteen year old apprentice of the regional Spook. Together they travel around the county banishing witches, ghosts... Read More

Raven’s Strike: A solid sequel

Raven’s Strike by Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs’ second novel in her RAVEN DUOLOGY, Raven’s Strike, picks up where the last novel leaves off. Seraph and her family have been reunited and are back on their way toward Redern, eager to get to the bottom of the mystery that presented itself during Tier’s captivity in Taela, the capital. Namely, what does The Path, the new religion developing in the septs, have to do with Traveler’s Orders? And why are so many ordered Travelers dying, and what is happening to their powers?

This book gives us a more in-depth introduction to new characters, as well. Phoran, the Emporer, is a frightened young man when we meet him in Raven’s Shadow. Here, he has developed a backbone and has decided to accompany Tier and Seraph on thei... Read More

Academ’s Fury: Nearly non-stop action

Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Academ’s Fury is the second book in Jim Butcher’s CODEX ALERA series. It takes place two years after the events in book 1, Furies of Calderon. Tavi, who feels like a “freak” because he’s the only Aleran who doesn’t have any magical connections with the elemental spirits called Furies that inhabit his land, is now at school in the capital city under the patronage of the First Lord. In return, he acts as the First Lord’s page and accidentally becomes involved in Aleran politics.

And there’s a lot going on in Alera. The First Lord is dealing with tensions throughout the realm — unnatural weather, crops in danger, Cursors being murdered, icemen coming over the wall, women’s issues in the senate, a slave alliance, a demanding trade consortium, delegations from neighboring lands, conspiracies against the crown, and worst of all, no heir and no clear line of succes... Read More

The Truth-Teller’s Tale: Shinn is a beautiful writer

The Truth-Teller’s Tale  by Sharon Shinn

Adele is a Safe-Keeper, physiologically incapable of sharing a secret. Her twin sister Eleda is a Truth-Teller, incapable of telling a lie. From the young age of 12, these sisters assume positions of responsibility in their town, but what happens when they get dragged into royal intrigue and the indiscretions of the most powerful family in town?

The Truth-Teller’s Tale, the second book in the SAFE-KEEPERS series by Sharon Shinn, is an improvement over the first book in the series. As an adult reader of a young adult novel, you always have to keep in mind that the intended audience is younger and assumed to be less sophisticated and well-read than you. That said, a good young adult novel should be capable of being enjoyed by an adult as well, and shouldn't talk down to its audience. While publishers recommend this for ... Read More

Shadowplay: Exciting sequel

Shadowplay by Tad Williams

On the surface, Volume 1 of Shadowmarch has all the makings of a fully realized epic fantasy: maps, appendix, a rich background history, excerpts (Book of Regret, The Book of the Trigon, Revelations of Nushash) to preface each chapter, a huge cast of characters, races, locales, gods, goddesses and much more to bring the world of Shadowmarch to life.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more involved in making a great fantasy and I felt that Shadowmarch was sorely lacking in some areas. First and foremost, the overall story is clichéd, uninspiring and predictable. Sure, some plotlines are interesting to follow like Quinnitan’s arc in the kingdom of Xis or Chert’s fun adventures, not to mention the concept behind the Shadowline/Shadowlands which offers something a bit different, but for the most part Shado... Read More

Beyond Exile: Zombies on audio

Beyond Exile by J.L. Bourne

Welcome back to the zombie apocalypse!

Your personal guide in this rotten wasteland is the still unnamed naval officer from Day by Day Armageddon. J.L. Bourne’s Beyond Exile starts immediately following the journal entry at the end of the first book with the narrator and his companions residing in a relatively secure location. Life has begun to feel somewhat normal. However, normalcy quickly deteriorates, and the places that were once safe are now death traps. With bravery, luck, and a little ingenuity they may just find a way to be safe again.

J.L. Bourne steps up his game in Beyond Exile and really weaves a great story. Bourne backs off a little from the “dear diary” premise of Day by Day Armageddon, and the story is no longer solely delivered through the journa... Read More

Return of the Crimson Guard: Better than Night of Knives

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Return of the Crimson Guard by Ian C. Esslemont

Return of the Crimson Guard is the second of Ian C. Esslemont’s books set in the world he helped create with Steven Erikson, whose longer-established Malazan Empire series has been going for years (the tenth and final book is due out in January).

Esslemont’s first Malazan book, Night of Knives, took place a bit back in the pre-history of Erikson’s series, set on the night that the old emperor Kallenvad and his companion Dancer ascended into the realm of Shadow and Laseen became empress. It was a much more constrained book... Read More

The Suburb Beyond the Stars: Not as good as his YA

The Suburb Beyond the Stars by M.T. Anderson

As a reader, I find M.T. Anderson a bit all over the map. I tend to see his strongest work as aimed at the older crowd, while his children’s novels tend to leave me a bit cold. That was the case with The Game of Sunken Places, a children’s fantasy involving two boys playing a Game of high stakes involving trolls, ogres, etc. M.T. Anderson hadn’t done enough with the relatively “humdrum” concepts and his plotting and characters were a bit muddled. I’m sorry to say that I have the same reaction to his second book in the series, The Suburb Beyond the Stars.

The same two boys, Brian and Gregory, are at work designing the next version of the Game (thanks to Brian having won the last time in book one), but their work is interrupted by a murderous attack on Brian by a monster, and... Read More

Ferren and the White Doctor: Vivid representation of a future-Earth

Ferren and the White Doctor by Richard Harland

This Heaven and Earth trilogy is original, exciting, interesting reading, but I still feel that with a little more work it could have gone from good to excellent and been placed among the likes of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. Like those books, these deal with conflict between the forces of Heaven and the beings on Earth, but are set in this world, many years into the future.

After scientists discovered that there was indeed life after death, mankind went about exploiting Heaven, resulting in a collapse of the lower Altitudes onto Earth, an expulsion of all souls from Heaven (which now exist as woeful Morphs) and ongoing conflict between angels and Humens: the soulless mechanic... Read More

Tentacles: A real blast!

Tentacles by Roland Smith

When I picked up Tentacles by Roland Smith, I had no idea it was a sequel (the first book being Cryptid Hunters). But I quickly discovered that it didn't matter. Not only is there a list of dramatis personae at the beginning of the book, but Roland Smith is very deft at refreshing plot details without info-dumping the events of the previous book on unsuspecting readers.

In Tentacles, Marty, his cousin Grace, and his friend Luther join Marty's uncle on a journey to capture a live giant squid — something that's never been done before. But they'll have to deal with a ship that mi... Read More

Wildfire: Like Firethorn, Wildfire is not for the faint of heart

Wildfire by Sarah Micklem

When we last saw Firethorn, she had resolved to follow Sire Galan to war rather than retreat to the country house he had provided her. As Wildfire opens, she does just that. But the gods aren't finished with Firethorn yet. Before she reaches the city of Lanx, where she will be reunited with Galan, Firethorn is struck by lightning.

She survives, but not unscathed. Firethorn comes away from the incident with several ailments, most notably aphasia. She often says one word when she means another. What I found most interesting about her speech disorder is that it sometimes reveals uncomfortable truths, such as when she accidentally refers to the bloodthirsty Queen Mother, whose name is Caelum, as "Callous."

Firethorn does reunite with Galan, but their time together is short. She falls into the custody of Prince Corvus, who is fleeing into exile in the neighboring countr... Read More

Voices: Lots to think about

Voices by Ursula Le Guin

In this story of the Western Shore, we meet Memer, a 17 year old girl — a "siege-brat" — who lives in the occupied land of Ansul, a city of people who used to be peaceful, prosperous, and educated but who were overtaken 17 years ago by the illiterate Alds who consider all writing to be demonic. All of the Ansul literature, history, and other books were drowned... except for a small collection of books that has been saved and hidden in a secret room in the house of Galvamand and can only be accessed by the last two people in the Galva household — Sulter Galva (the Waylord) and Memer, whose mother was a Galva.

One day, the Maker and orator Orrec, and his wife Gry, (from Gifts) come to town, stay at Galvamand, and recite to the people of Ansul and their Ald overlord, the Gand Ioratth. When Orrec recites ancient ep... Read More

Seeing Redd: Better than the first book

Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor

For me, Alice In Wonderland is one of those unforgettable tales that has been imprinted onto my imagination for as long as I can remember, alongside such classics as The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars, and remains one of the most beloved stories of our time. So when I heard about Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars, which supposedly told the true story of Alice Liddell and a Wonderland that was real, I was definitely intrigued and picked up a copy. Even though the book was somewhat aimed toward a younger audience and was a little rough around the edges writing-wise, I enjoyed The Looking Glass Wars.

In The Looking Glass Wa... Read More

Goblin Hero: Unique brand of humor

Goblin Hero by Jim C. Hines

Jig Dragonslayer has a new quest in Goblin Hero. This time, an ogre has come looking for his help. This is, of course, the last thing the diminutive Jig wants. Nonetheless, spurred on by his god, Tymalous Shadowstar, Jig finds he must accept the ogre’s request. But fighting pixies is not Jig’s idea of a good time, and in this sequel to Goblin Quest Jig must once again rely on his pusillanimous goblin brain to save everyone (including hobgoblins!) from the pixie invasion into the cavern complex the goblins, hobgoblins, and ogres call home.

Jim C. Hines uses his unique brand of humor to tell this funny adventure tale. Jig is his old self: a reluctant but effective hero. Yet Hines has also branched out and given the reader some new characters to enjoy. There is Grell, the ancient goblin nursery maid; Braf, the dumbest but biggest goblin in the lair; V... Read More

Divine by Choice: Like a sundae

Divine by Choice by P.C. Cast

Shannon Parker, Beloved of Epona and now living in the lap of luxury in Parthalon is suddenly pulled back into the modern world from whence she came. Summoned back by the mirror image of her centaur husband, ClanFintan, Clint Freeman a handsome and brave former Air Force pilot has been battling with Shannon’s evil twin Rhiannon.

But Shannon isn’t the only one who has been pulled out of Parthalon. The evil spirit of the demon Shannon helped to vanquish in Divine By Mistake, Nuada, has followed her into the modern world and is threatening her friends and family. Together with Clint Shannon must find a way to stop Nuada, Rhiannon, and the other evil forces that are keeping her from returning to the world she has come to love.

After the first few chapters of Divine by Choice, I was not holding out much hope for the book as a whole. The... Read More

The Warrior Prophet: Strong three, improves on first though a few flaws

The Warrior Prophet by R. Scott Bakker

The Warrior Prophet picks up from The Darkness That Comes Before (which must be read first) and mostly improves on that first book, which in itself was a solid read. Where Darkness suffered from lengthy exposition, now that the basic storyline and world have been set, Bakker can focus on moving things along more quickly, if that can be said about a 600 plus page book. Though the book could be cut by a hundred plus pages, that's a critique that can be made about almost any recent fantasy (heavy sigh) and so can be relegated to the minor "I've grown resigned to this" sort of thing. Despite some padding, the book moves along fluidly and at a good pace for the most part, with only a few lagging areas. Part of the reason for the better pace is that while in book one the Holy War (with clear connections to the Crusades) has to be labori... Read More

The King’s Own: Better than Covenants

The King's Own by Lorna Freeman

In the first book of Borderlands (Covenant), Lorna Freeman made some serious mistakes with the main character, Rabbit, by trying to describe him as one thing and have him behave in a manner that didn't make sense.
In the second book, The King's Own, there is much better consistency with Rabbit — he acts like he should. I especially loved the way the Freeman played off of his youth and apparent inexperience when it came to dealing with the opposite sex.

The story line was interesting again and the originality of how magic and different races exist is worth thinking about. I really enjoy the interactions between the various races and the fact that they are not automatically all best friends. Too often, authors neglect the conflict that is innate when bringing n... Read More

The Good, The Bad, and the Undead: Good stuff

The Good, The Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison

This is the second book in the series by Kim Harrison about Rachel Morgan, ex-IS runner, white witch, and now paranormal investigator. Dead Witch Walking, while being nothing spectacular, was a solid enough read which introduced the relationship between humans and Inderlanders and the characters which inhabit the Hollows. The Good, the Bad and the Undead ramps up the action, suspense, excitement, eroticism, and terror — it is a whirlwind of a story that doesn't let you breathe until the last page has been turned.

Rachel is having trouble meeting her rent payments due to lack of employment, so she ends up taking a case from necessity — someone is killing leyline witches in a gruesome manner and the FIB want to know who. Rachel finds it easy enou... Read More