Barry’s Deal: Frenetic and fun

Barry’s Deal by Lawrence M. Schoen

The world and characters of Barry’s Deal (2017) will require no introduction to long time Lawrence M. Schoen readers. The Amazing Conroy, a space-traveling hypnotist and his companion Reggie, a buffalito (buffalo dog), have cropped up several times before, not least in Schoen’s last novella (Barry’s Tale, 2014). Nevertheless, the internet assured me that this latest installment can be read as a stand-alone novella and, as it’s one of this year’s Nebula nominees, I gave it a go.

Conroy and Reggie have just touched down on Triton, an arcology known for its opulent casino hotel and black-market activity. Now fabulously rich, Conroy is hoping to participate in an illegal auction and... Read More

Next of Kin: A surprisingly gentle tale

Next of Kin by Dan Wells

“I died again last night.” It’s a compelling first sentence to a novella told from the point of view of Elijah Sexton, a demon, and it promises a different and exciting new start to Dan Wells’s JOHN CLEAVER series.

Sexton drinks memories. For a time, he killed people himself, “topping off” his memory as he pleases. Soon, though, imbued with a hundred thousand lives, he could no longer bear to kill. Instead, he works in a morgue and drinks the memories of the newly dead. He lives

from death to death, sometimes two weeks, sometimes three, holding on as long as I can while my brain slips away like sand in an hourglass, grain by grain, loose and crumbling, until I can barely remember my own name and I have to find another. I drink their minds like a trembling addict, desperate and ashamed.

Other demons mock Sexton fo... Read More

The Skull Throne: Things are heating up

The Skull Throne by Peter Brett

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Peter Brett’s DEMON CYCLE series from the beginning, and the most recent addition, The Skull Throne, continues to impress, even as it sidelines two of its major characters for the vast majority of the book. Fair warning, the review can’t help but offer up some spoilers for prior novels, especially the last one, which ended literally on a cliffhanger.

The prior books have shifted from emphasizing various points of view, but especially focusing on Arlen (the eponymous “Warded Man”), Jardir, and Inevera. Here, Jardir and Arlen make only very brief appearances, enough to resolve that cliffhanger closing of book three and to point us the way to major events (I assume) in book five, as the two plan an assault on the Core itself, home to... Read More

In a Witch’s Wardrobe: Great series for audio

In a Witch’s Wardrobe by Juliet Blackwell

I’m really enjoying Juliet Blackwell’s WITCHCRAFT MYSTERY series on audio! These are short paranormal mysteries that have appealing characters, are light on blood and violence, feature (but don’t focus too much on) romantic relationships, include a bit of humor, and have a great setting (a vintage clothing store in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco). Each mystery is self-contained but there’s an overarching plot that advances with each book (so you want to start with the first book, Secondhand Spirits).

In this fourth novel, Lily is attending an art deco charity ball with a date when she sees a woman fall unconscious in the restroom. It looks like witchcraft is at work. Lily can’t mind her own business, so she starts investigating and eventually unearths a nasty little plot involving a local coven, a fussy baby, a jilted lover, poisonous plants, backward ma... Read More

Devil Said Bang: Leaving Hell was the easy part

Devil Said Bang by Richard Kadrey

Warning: This review may contain spoilers of earlier SANDMAN SLIM books.

I admire writers who can create fast-paced, intricately plotted stories that still have layered, complete characters. To me, that’s the prose version of juggling eggs and chainsaws at the same time. In Devil Said Bang, Richard Kadrey’s fourth SANDMAN SLIM book, he accomplishes this feat while tap-dancing and simultaneously playing blues harmonica.

When Devil Said Bang opens, James Stark, whose Hellion arena name is Sandman Slim, is still in Hell, but he’s in a… well, let’s say, a managerial position. He’s surrounded by damned souls, resentful Hellions and a ruling council of fallen angels who want to see him dead. Exploring Lucifer’s palace in Hell’s capital city of Pandemonium, Stark discovers a strange weapon... Read More

Requiem: Moves the story along but in weaker fashion

Requiem by Ken Scholes

Requiem is the fourth book in Ken Scholes PSALMS OF ISAAK series, which while having a few minor issues throughout has mostly been a fresh mix of fantasy and science fiction, filled with intriguing characters and exploring complex issues involving the intersection of religion, technology, and society. Requiem continues that exploration, though in weaker fashion than the prior three novels.

By now, the plot has grown extremely complicated, so I’m not going to offer up much of a plot recap, which should probably clue you in that this is a series that requires reading the books in order. While earlier books had many of the main characters together or at least paired up, in Requiem, Scholes has chosen to separate them, sending several all the way to the moon (and separating even the ones there).

The Gypsy King, Rudolpho, helplessly outnumbered and outplanned... Read More

The Minority Council: Swift and Griffin at their best

The Minority Council by Kate Griffin

The thing that gives Matthew Swift, London’s last urban sorcerer and Midnight Mayor, his extraordinary power is that he loves London. He loves the gritty streets, the posh apartment buildings, glowing graffiti, the blowing trash, the murky river, the pigeons, rats and urban foxes. He loves the underground, the trains, buses and cars. He loves the hole-in-the-wall diners and take-outs, the stink of diesel and petrol fumes, curry and incense. It is this love that gives him his power, and this love that makes Kate Griffin’s The Minority Council the best MATTHEW SWIFT book since A Madness of Angels.

Swift may be the Midnight Mayor, but he is also virtually homeless. The Aldermen, minions of the Mayor, do not trust him, and — horror of horrors! — he has been saddled with a perky personal assistant. Late on... Read More

Reaper: A SOUL SCREAMERS novella

Reaper by Rachel Vincent

Rachel Vincent’s Reaper is a novella set in her SOUL SCREAMERS world. I read it because it was free for members at Audible during one of their promotions. I haven’t read any of the SOUL SCREAMERS novels, but I’m familiar with the premise because I’ve read Kelly’s reviews of the series.

Reaper is the story of how Tod, sacrificing himself for his impulsive younger brother Nash, became a reaper. We get to know Tod, Nash, and their mom pretty well. We also learn a bit about Sabine, Nash’s girlfriend, and Addison, Tod’s ex-girlfriend-turned-pop-star.

Fans of the SOUL SCREAMERS series won’t want to miss Reaper because it contains a moving background story. However, this novella can stand alone for those who haven’t started the series yet, and it may be ... Read More

Ganymede: Priest is writing the best steampunk around

Ganymede by Cherie Priest

When Hollywood makes a movie of Ganymede — and they have to — I hope they subtitle it “The Battle of Barataria Bay.” That sequence comes near the end of Cherie Priest’s latest CLOCKWORK CENTURY novel, and is fasten-your-seatbelt, grip-the-arms-of-your-chair exciting.

Priest’s books always feature strong women, and in Ganymede, the main character is Josephine Early. Josephine lives in New Orleans, running an upscale bordello. Nearly twenty years into the American civil war, the Confederacy is having trouble holding New Orleans and has called on its political ally the Republic of Texas to help occupy the city. Early’s hometown is filled with brown-shirted Lone Star soldiers and administrators, and she has grown to hate them. As a free woman of color, she is all too conscious of how easily she can lo... Read More

Scholar: A new beginning in the IMAGER PORTFOLIO

Scholar by L.E. Modesitt Jr

In a pattern that’s by now familiar for L.E. Modesitt Jr., Scholar marks a new beginning in the IMAGER PORTFOLIO series. The book is set several hundred years before the events portrayed in the three “Rhentyll” novels Imager, Imager’s Challenge, and Imager’s Intrigue. Because of this, Scholar shares no characters with the earlier novels in the series and can be read separately. However, if you haven’t read the Rhentyll novels yet and are in the mood for some good, thoughtful fantasy, I still recommend reading them first, just so you can see the events of the new novel in the broader historical context L.E. Modesitt Jr. likes to build for his fantasy worlds.

Scholar is set in a time when Solidar hasn’t b... Read More

Heartless: Witty frivolity and endless imagination

Heartless by Gail Carriger

Alexia is now largely pregnant and ready (though not overly willing) to enter into her confinement when an insane ghost appears and warns of a plot to assassinate the queen. As if that isn’t enough, the vampires have been repeatedly attempting to kill Alexia, or at least the infant inconvenience she carries (mechanical porcupines — what will they think of next), necessitating that Alexia and Conall move to London and come under the protection of Lord Akeldama who is wittier than ever before as he deals with the loss of his favorite drone, Buffy. And then Alexia’s half-sister decides to move in. And take up the cause of suffrage! What will people say?

Heartless is a welcome addition to Gail Carriger’s steampunk London. The Woolsey werewolf pack is at its best trying to anticipate the demands of their pregnant alpha female, Conall is beside himself trying ... Read More

The Snow Queen’s Shadow: Ends the series perfectly

The Snow Queen’s Shadow by Jim C. Hines

The Snow Queen’s Shadow is not simply Jim Hines’ fourth book in his fairytale princess series, following Red Hood’s Revenge, The Mermaid’s Madness, and The Stepsister Scheme. He makes clear in a direct address to the reader that he sees it as the close to the series, though like any clever writer he leaves himself some wiggle room. Should he choose to end it here, it isn’t at all a bad place to bid farewell to Snow White (Snow), Sleeping Beauty (Talia), and Cinderella (Danielle).

In this perhaps final chapter, Snow White becomes the titular Snow Queen when her most important and potent magic mirror — the one made by her mother — accidentally shatters during a powerful spell. The effect on Snow is profound and immediate. She turns on her friends, to the poin... Read More

Hard Bitten: Seriously evil cliffhanger

Hard Bitten by Chloe Neill

The Chicagoland Vampires series started out fairly light and has gradually become darker. The unpretentious, easily digestible writing style is still in effect, and humor is still present, but Merit’s troubles have increased in complexity and the emotional stakes have been steadily raised. Hard Bitten is the fourth in the series and the darkest so far. Chloe Neill brings together a number of previously introduced plot arcs, and all hell breaks loose.

Merit is touched by Ethan’s recent gestures but still wary of him after their breakup in Twice Bitten. She doesn’t have much time for romantic angst, though, because Cadogan House is in trouble. The events of the past few books have put Cadogan, Ethan, and Merit on the radar of both the human and vampire authorities. We... Read More

Late Eclipses: I love the October Daye novels

Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire

Before I start my review, an aside about the cover art. Chris McGrath has really outdone himself on the cover for Late Eclipses. Wow, that’s gorgeous. It’s also an actual scene from the book, and every element in the scene is important to the story, from her ball gown to her leather jacket to the items she holds.

Moving along to the book, Late Eclipses features a mystery that hits close to home for Toby Daye. Lily, the Lady of the Tea Gardens, falls ill… but it’s supposed to be impossible for Undines to get sick. Then other friends of Toby’s become ill too, and Toby suspects the involvement of an old nemesis of hers, Oleander de Merelands. But no one else has seen or heard from Oleander, and Toby herself has been feeling rather strange lately… could it be that she’s losing her mind?

I love reading the October Daye novel... Read More

Arcane Circle: Contains Robertson’s best writing yet

Arcane Circle by Linda Robertson

Fatal Circle ended on a cliffhanger, with Menessos’ fate uncertain after a sacrifice he made during the battle with the fairies. In Arcane Circle, the fourth in Linda Robertson’s Circle series, we learn what has become of Menessos and see some of the battle’s repercussions in vampire politics. We also briefly revisit witch politics, as the lucusi react to a revered crone’s death, and encounter a new Homeland Security agency devoted specifically to dealing with the paranormal. Then, too, there’s the exotic menagerie that has taken up residence on Seph’s land, and by “exotic” I mean dragons, unicorns, phoenixes…

It’s the werewolf politics, however, that take center stage in Arcane Circle. The Rege, a werewolf ruler described by one were as “Pope-Czarzilla,” ... Read More

Travelers’ Rest: He came, he saw…

Travelers’ Rest by James Enge

Travelers’ Rest is short and sweet. (Much like myself except the sweetness of Travelers’ Rest is Morlock Ambrose’s dispersion of justice, and the sweetness of me is, well I’m just freakin’ adorable). Also, Travelers’ Rest is a free e-book from Pyr  in honor of The Wolf Age, the latest MORLOCK AMBROSE novel, being their 100th book. Just in time for Christmas too. So a sincere thank you to Pyr is in order. They are already my favorite publisher, so they really didn’t have to, but it’s nice they did. (Click here for free ePub).
... Read More