Hymn: Wraps up the series in solid fashion

Hymn by Ken Scholes

Ken Scholes brings his PSALMS OF ISAAK series to a close with Hymn (2017), a novel that satisfactorily ends the series, even if the novel is perhaps a bit weaker in comparison to its predecessors.

One of the series’ strengths has always been Scholes’ vibrant imagination, and Hymn retains that quality here, building on earlier concepts and adding new ones, which I won’t detail here so as to avoid spoilers. Another positive quality of the series has been its, well, positive quality. By that I mean that while some horrific things happen in this series (and this book) there always remains a sense of optimism and warmth arising from either plot or the characters. Rather than an unremitting catalog of the ills of human nature, Scholes balances pain with joy... Read More

The Core: A satisfying wrap to a consistently strong series

The Core by Peter V. Brett

With The Core (2017), Peter V. Brett brings his well-received DEMON CYCLE series to a climactic close, rounding up the slew of characters he’s introduced along the way and given most of them (at least of those who have survived to this point) at least some moments of stage time for a fond farewell. I’ve enjoyed the series ever since its opening with The Warded Man, and while I had some issues with this final book, overall The Core makes for a satisfying conclusion and makes it easy to recommend the series in its entirety. I’m going to assume you’ve read the prior books, so I won’t bother recapping them, and as usual, you can assume there will be spoilers for tho... Read More

The Devil’s Only Friend: Triumphal and bleak

The Devil’s Only Friend by Dan Wells

This review contains spoilers for the first JOHN WAYNE CLEAVER trilogy.

John Wayne Cleaver is a seventeen-year-old boy who wants very, very much to kill people. Lots of them, one right after the other, in terrible, bloody ways. Paradoxically, because he longs to do that, he has been taking extraordinary lengths to avoid becoming a serial killer. His struggles were related in a trilogy consisting of I Am Not A Serial Killer (reviewed here), Mr. Monster (reviewed here), and I Don’t Want to Kill You (reviewed here). That trilogy showed how John’s efforts to avoid acting on h... Read More

Timeless: A little goes a long way

Timeless by Gail Carriger

Timeless is the fifth and final book in Gail Carriger’s popular PARASOL PROTECTORATE series which takes place in a Victorian London where vampires and werewolves and other immortal paranormal creatures are integrated into society. Alexia Tarabotti, our spunky heroine, is a “preternatural” — she has the rare ability to cancel out the powers of other supernatural creatures when she touches them.

Over the course of the previous books, Alexia met, fell in love with, and married Lord Conal Maccon, an alpha werewolf. Their relationship is sometimes sexy and sometimes rocky. For example, he banished Alexia during her pregnancy because he thought he was sterile. Now the couple is back together and baby Prudence has entered their lives. Prudence is an enigma — she has some unique powers that nobody understands yet. Will she be some sort of abomination? Quite pos... Read More

Tarnished and Torn: Another solid entry in this pleasant series

Tarnished and Torn by Juliet Blackwell

Tarnished and Torn is the fifth book in Juliet Blackwell’s WITCHCRAFT MYSTERIES series. If you haven’t read any of the books yet, I’d recommend that you start back at book one, Second Hand Spirits. This is a pleasant cozy mystery series that isn’t going to stun you with brilliant ideas or delight you with its literary finesse, but it consistently does what it sets out to do — it entertains. Its strength is the cast of characters who are likeable right from the start and who grow on the reader as, over the course of five books, we learn more of their history, witness their triumphs and tragedies, and (most importantly) come to care about what happens to them in the future.

In Tarnished and Torn, Lily attends an antique jewelry show with her friends. While she’s there, a fire starts and someone is murdered in a way that’s reminiscent of ancien... Read More

Kill City Blues: Shopping Mall Gothic

Kill City Blues by Richard Kadrey

How about a nice haunted house book? You’ve read dozens, you say? Okay, well how about a haunted hotel? Been there, done that… ? Well, have you read about a haunted luxury mall, one with abandoned levels all the way down to a faux Roman bath that holds a shrine to a god from another universe, and contains, somewhere, a God-killing weapon? No? I thought not.

Kill City Blues is the fifth SANDMAN SLIM book from Richard Kadrey. James Stark has turned the ruling of Hell over to someone else, and is back in L.A. He saved our reality from a cataclysm, but along the way he lost the Qomrama, a doomsday weapon, to Aelita, the mad angel who wants to kill God. Aelita has hidden the Qomrama, or as Stark irreverently calls it, the “Magic 8 Ball” somewhere in L.A. and Stark needs to find it before even more ancient deities, the Angra, chew their way through to our reality and destroy us. Read More

Stray Souls: Griffin moves into Pratchett territory

Stray Souls by Kate Griffin

I am a big fan of Kate Griffin’s MATTHEW SWIFT books. I think her love of  London; the majestic, the beautiful, the historic, the grungy, the run-down and the shoddy, powers those books, as does a system of magic that grown organically from the city (or, as Swift puts it, “Life is magic.”) With Stray Souls, Griffin introduces another character and what appears to second series set in the same magical universe; the MAGICALS ANONYMOUS series.

Sharon Li is twenty-two. She is a barista in a coffee shop and shares a flat with three flat-mates. She is addicted to self-help books, but lately she’s had a few experiences that go beyond the Change-your-mind-change-your-life kind of thing — like, she can walk through walls. Sharon does what anyone would do in this situation; she forms a group on Facebook. Soon the Facebook group evolves into a real support group, with a meeting s... Read More

Driving Mr. Dead: Entertaining paranormal romance

Driving Mr. Dead by Molly Harper

Miranda, daughter of two lawyers who own their own firm, has been a disappointing daughter. She doesn’t want to practice law, doesn’t want to marry her lawyer fiancé, and generally doesn’t want to conform to her family’s expectations. Unfortunately, every time Miranda thinks she’s found the perfect job for her talents and personality, some weird disaster happens and she ends up unemployed again.

She’s got a new job now — one she thinks she’s going to love. She’s a chauffeur for vampires. For her first assignment, she has to drive Collin Sutherland across the country. It doesn’t sound like a difficult job, but whenever Miranda’s involved, things always go awry. Even before Collin gets in the car, Miranda’s series of unfortunate events has started.

I knew going in that Driving Mr. Dead wasn’t really my thing — I’m not crazy about vampires, paranormal ro... Read More

The Inexplicables: A journey through a poisoned city and an addict’s mind

The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest

The Inexplicables is the fifth book in Cherie Priest’s CLOCKWORK CENTURY series. This one returns to its roots, the walled, Blight-ridden city of Seattle. It’s 1881, and the American Civil War is still going on. Eighteen years earlier, a powerful mining device tapped into a vein of gas deep into the earth, and the gas spilled out into Seattle, killing most people and turning them into “rotters” or zombies. The source of the outbreak (downtown Seattle) was walled off and abandoned, but some brave souls still go in there. Mostly, they go to syphon up the Blight gas and distill it into a deadly drug called sap.

Rector Sherman is a sap addict and an orphan who has just turned eighteen. He is being evicted from the Catholic orphanage on the outskirts of the walled city. That isn’t Rector’s only problem. He’s also haunted by the ghost of Zeke Wi... Read More

The Great Bazaar: More stories by Peter V. Brett

The Great Bazaar by Peter V. Brett

Shame on me for not having read Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man and The Desert Spear yet. I have them on audio and I look forward to reading them — I just keep thinking that I’ll let Mr. Brett get further along in the series before I jump in (the series has been progressing slowly, but book 3, The Daylight War, comes out next February). Yet I’m attracted to Brett’s world and after reading his novella Brayan’s Gold, I wanted more, so I picked up the audio version of The Great Bazaar, another novella set in this land that’s overrun by various types of demons every time it gets dark.

Peter V. Brett explains in his introduction to the print version of The Great Bazaar and Other Stories that The Great Bazaar ... Read More

Princeps: Solid IMAGER novel

Princeps by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Princepsis a direct follow-up to Scholar and continues the story of Quaeryt, the Scholar/Imager. In Scholar, Quaeryt grew greatly both as a person and as an Imager through his service to Lord Bhayar in investigating the reason for heavy military requirements in the province on Tilbor. Quaeryt’s resounding success in figuring out the underlying issue and protecting Lord Bhayar’s interests is rewarded by an appointment as Princeps of Tilbor and marriage to Bhayar’s sister, Vaelora.

As Princeps of Tilbor, Quaeryt has a lot of his plate while managing the administrative and financial aspects of the province. Quaeryt is responsible for working out the details when merchants or tradesmen seek concessions or to negotiate with the government. This is a great teaching and learning experience for a well educated Scholar, and prepares him for the next pha... Read More

Drink Deep: Another enjoyable installment of CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRES

Drink Deep by Chloe Neill

This review contains a big spoiler for the previous book, Hard Bitten. If you haven’t read Hard Bitten yet, hit “Page Up” now — and then get caught up on the CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRES as soon as possible, because these books are fun!

There’s a more somber tone this time around, though. It’s been a few months since Ethan Sullivan’s death. Merit and Cadogan House are recovering, but both heroine and house are still keenly aware of the Ethan-sized hole left behind. Merit is feeling a tentative attraction toward her friend and partner Jonah, but she’s not sure she’s ready to date again and is still haunted by disturbing dreams of Ethan. Malik has taken over Cadogan House, but a supercilious Greenwich Presidium bureaucrat is making everyone’s life miserable. Public opinion of vamp... Read More

The Curse of Four: Full of ghosts

The Curse of Four by Caitlin Kittredge

The Curse of Four was my first introduction to Caitlin Kittredge’s Black London series. Most of the work in this series is novel-length but the Curse of Four, offered by Subterranean Press, is a novella. Based on this story, I definitely want to read the longer books.

The Curse of Four features a strange and attractive cover. I am a slow study, so I stared at the misty, gray-and-golden images of crows on headstones for a minute before I realized it was a T-shirt design on the torso of a standing man, his face in shadow, his hair Billy-Idol bright. This is Jack Winter, cleaned-up junkie, front man for a legendary punk rock band, psychic, and wizard.

Kittredge employs an interesting point of view in The Curse of Four. Most of it is Jack’s, ... Read More

One Salt Sea: Has everything that’s great about OCTOBER DAYE

One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire

It’s been a month since the defeat of Oleander de Merelands, since the Duke’s mad daughter Rayseline went on the lam, and since October Daye was brought back from the brink of death and restored to the power level she should have had all along.

This is a lot to deal with, and now there’s a new problem in Faerie. The two sons of a mermaid Duchess have been kidnapped. Unless they can be found, the sea fae will declare war upon those of the land, with disastrous casualties for both sides. If anyone can find the boys before it’s too late, it’s Toby, though it’ll mean facing her fear of the water.

In a reversal of the fairy tale “The Little Mermaid,” Toby goes to the sea witch (a.k.a. the Luideag) for a spell that will enable her to survive underwater. She investigates both land and sea in her search for the boys… and then the case takes a turn for the very, very personal.... Read More

My Soul to Keep: I’m eagerly along for the ride

My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent

My Soul to Keepdeals with the issue of drug abuse, but if you’re worried it will be a preachy Very Special Episode type of story, worry no more. Rachel Vincent raises the book above that level — both by allowing the damage to strike very close to home for Kaylee and by placing the issue in an enthralling plot — so that it never feels like a simplistic “drugs are bad, mmmkay” fable.

In My Soul to Save, Vincent introduced readers to Demon’s Breath, a sought-after intoxicant among the denizens of the Netherworld. Kaylee now emerges from her month-long grounding to find that someone has brought Demon’s Breath to her high school and that several of her acquaintances are using it. And for human kids, using Demon’s Breath is a nearly inevitable ticket to insanity or death. Then, Vincent makes terrific use of a tiny, forgettable detail from book t... Read More