2010.02


The Candy House: A not-so-futuristic future

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

What is most frightening about the imagined conscious-sharing technology in The Candy House (2022) is that it's not so far off from our own reality. 'Own Your Unconscious' is a futuristic cube that allows users to access and share every memory they've ever had, alongside the thoughts and feelings that go with them. Parents can access the minds of their children, lovers, their partners' – siblings, students, colleagues – you name it. And because it's possible to upload your memories for public access, it's also possible to locate people through others' memories. That person you met at a bar for one night in your twenties? Through the collective memory of 'Own Your Unconscious,' you can trace them. This is the heady premise on which Jennifer Egan's companion novel to the Pulitzer prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) is based.
... Read More

Hilda and the Midnight Giant: A return to Hilda’s world

Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson
The second in Luke Pearson’s HILDA series of graphic novels once again returns to the Scandinavian countryside and the adventures of Hilda, a blue-haired little girl who lives with her mother in a remote cabin. She spends her days wandering about with her sketchbook, exploring the natural world and the mysterious creatures that live within it.

Mother and daughter are relaxing at home one evening when stones suddenly fly through their windows, and a little voice announces that they’re to leave the premises or be forcibly evicted. There’s no sign of anyone, though Hilda grabs a broom and starts sweeping the invisible intruders to the door — where she’s stunned to see a giant looming over the house.

That’s two mysteries for the price of one, and being as in... Read More

The Serpent Sea: An exotic and beautiful fantasy world

The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells

The Serpent Sea (2012) is the second of Martha WellsBOOKS OF THE RAKSURA following The Cloud Roads which you’ll want to read first (this review will contain spoilers for The Cloud Roads).

In the previous book we met Moon, a solitary Raksura (a humanoid species that can shape-shift into a scaly flying dragon-like creature) who lost contact with his people when he was a baby and had no idea what he was. Trying to hide among other humans, he was discovered by a member of the Raksuran Indigo Cloud court and presented to their queen as a consort. The Cloud Roads describes Moon’s loneliness, his journey, his bewildering int... Read More

Red Glove: Sacrifices the main plot for intriguing settings and secondary characters

Red Glove by Holly Black

Following the events of White Cat, Red Glove (2011) finds Cassel, the protagonist of Holly Black’s series THE CURSE WORKERS, simultaneously dealing with no shortage of familial drama and direct fallout from his actions in the earlier installment. Red Glove is thus a direct continuation of the series that seeks to build upon the established characters, world, and particular circumstances revealed at the end of the first novel: with varying success.

Red Glove takes the time to let the reader engage more with the stand-out secondary characters of the series. Some of my favourites, like Cassel’s school friends, become more central to the m... Read More

The Crowfield Demon: A dark and creepy supernatural read

The Crowfield Demon by Pat Walsh

In The Crowfield Curse (2012), young William and his friends and allies righted a long-ago wrong at Crowfield Abbey and faced down the terrifying Unseelie King. But now another evil is rising at the abbey — one that has even the Unseelie King running scared.

The Crowfield Demon is even better and spookier than The Crowfield Curse. I didn’t realize how familiar the abbey had begun to feel after one relatively short book; when the structure begins to fail, it’s like a shattering of the world, albeit a small, circumscribed world. Pat Walsh builds the suspense well. Creepy, inexplicable art in the church; mysterious artifacts found beneath the stones; foul odors; unsettling dreams; hidden documents from the past — all of these add up to a great mystery. William, Shadlok, Brother Snail, and Brother Wa... Read More

Double Cross: Characters evolve and develop

Double Cross by Carolyn Crane

If Mind Games is where Carolyn Crane sets up her world, Double Cross (2010) is where she hits her stride. The world has been built and Crane can really take her time to enjoy the plot and flesh out her characters. Usually the second book in a trilogy suffers a bit, but this one doesn’t. Characters evolve and develop. Crane turns flaws into impressive strengths and the twist at the end rather surprised me and added a nice tragic note to everything. It’s a fast-paced book that is sure to absorb readers.

THE DISILLUSIONISTS TRILOGY is intensely psychological, and Crane’s use of various psychological issues in her main cast is incredibly brave. I can’t imagi... Read More

Deadline: Couldn’t stop reading

Deadline by Mira Grant

I advise against reading this review if you haven’t yet read Mira Grant’s Feed, the first volume in her Newsflesh trilogy, but intend to. The review necessarily contains spoilers, without which discussing the second volume, Deadline, would be impossible.

Deadline (2011) picks up several months after the end of Feed (2010). The first-person narrator, Shaun Mason, is not the same since the death of his sister by his hand, after she had been infected by the virus that causes one to become a zombie. Not only is he no longer an Irwin (a journalist who courts danger, usually by going out into the field to poke zombies with a stick, named after Steve Irwin, the Australian wildlife expert who tempted death by interacting with danger... Read More

The Broken Kingdoms: Adventure and tragedy

The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

The world has changed over the last several years and the opportunities that are now possible are too hard for Oree to resist, so she left home to seek a new life in Sky. Oree is an artist with a gift for seeing magic, but magic is the only thing she can see. She has set up shop in a promenade section of the great city and has created a pleasant life for herself there amongst friends and Godlings. Things start to get ugly, though, when Oree stumbles upon a dead Godling. The gods have become angry and the religious factions are looking for someone to blame. Oree’s unique abilities and proximity to the crime make her a prime suspect.

When I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms I was taken completely by surprise. It was one of those rare moments where I read a book I was confident I wouldn’t like, only to be left speechless at my misjudgment when I was done. I had tremen... Read More

The Twelve: Thrilling sequel expands epic story and mythology

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin’s 2010 apocalyptic-vampire thriller, The Passage, debuted in the midst of the mass consumer love affair with the weird and supernatural. In the evolution of the vampire in pop culture, Anne Rice turned Bram Stoker’s blood-sucking villain into a romantic lead. Stephenie Meyer morphed Lestat into a high school heart-throb. Justin Cronin pulled the genre up and out of its romanticized and stagnating plateau to give the publishing world something more epic, more poignant, more ... genuine.

The Passage was a runaway success, though it left readers wanting more and hungrier than a 100-year old viral. Two years later, Cro... Read More

The Devil You Know: Saloninus makes a deal with the Devil

The Devil You Know by K.J. Parker

Everything that K.J. Parker writes automatically goes on my TBR list. So when I picked up The Devil You Know, I figured I was in for a treat but I didn’t realize that the novella is a sequel to Blue and Gold, one of my favorite Parker stories. You don’t need to read Blue and Gold to enjoy The Devil You Know, but you may as well, since it’s such a great story. But don’t worry; I won’t spoil it here.

In Blue and Gold we met Saloninus, a wily philosopher and alchemist who was commissioned to perform the two ultimate alchemical feats: creating the elixir of life and turning base metal into gold. In the first sentence of the book, he informed us that he had murdered his wife and w... Read More

The Coldest War: An alternate look at the Cold War

The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis

I loved Bitter Seeds, the first volume of THE MILKWEED TRIPTYCH. Ian Tregillis is executing a brilliant spin on twentieth-century world history with this series. The Coldest War begins roughly twenty years after the events of Bitter Seeds, and the name is fitting. Not only is this the Cold War, but it’s also a very cold part of the lives of the protagonists. In fact, the first half of the book is downright depressing as characters realize what an unfortunate life March lives, and while Will seems very lucky, his life takes a negative spin as well. Then, you insert Gretel (who makes my skin crawl) and her brother Klaus, and you have a simmering pot of dark tension just waiting to boil over.

Gretel is, perhaps, one o... Read More

Dead Bolt: Inspired by a San Francisco legend

Dead Bolt by Juliet Blackwell

Dead Bolt is the second book in Juliet Blackwell’s HAUNTED HOME RENOVATION MYSTERIES. I liked the first book, If Walls Could Talk, well enough, but felt like it was too similar to Blackwell’s other paranormal cozy mystery series, WITCHCRAFT MYSTERIES. The best thing about both series is that the audiobook versions are read by the amazing Xe Sands and, I swear, I would probably be happy listening to Xe read the tax code. (Fortunately, Blackwell’s books are a lot more entertaining than that!) These books are short — each is just over 7 hours long in audio format.

In Dead Bolt, Mel Turner has been asked to renovate the historic San Francisco home of a young couple with a baby. The house, which u... Read More

The Son of Neptune: The second instalment of a series steadily cranking into gear…

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Warning: Contains some mild spoilers for the previous book, The Lost Hero.

First, a brief reminder of where this book stands among Rick Riordan's collection of YA novels: it is the second book in the HEROES OF OLYMPUS five-part series, which itself is the sequel series to the original PERCY JACKSON books. Suffice to say, if you're unfamiliar with the stories published before this one, you're likely to be hopelessly lost in understanding what's happening here. Head back to Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and work your way up.

For those who are all up-to-date, you'll be pleased to know The Son of Neptune doesn't waste any time in throwing you back into the action. As rea... Read More

Royal Airs: Not as good as Troubled Waters

Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn

Royal Airs is the second book in Sharon Shinn’s ELEMENTAL BLESSINGS series. I loved the first book, Troubled Waters, which was a light romantic fantasy that told the story of Zoe Ardelay, a young woman who was brought to the royal court of Welce to be the fifth wife of its king. She discovered that she had power over the element of water and, using the personality traits that her water spirit gave her, she successfully navigated the dangers of the court and found true love. I’ll be reading that book again someday.

Royal Airs takes place after the events of Troubled Waters, but it can stand alone. Many of the characters overlap, but this is a separate story, not a direct sequel. In Royal Airs we become acquainted with more of the princesses of the five fami... Read More

Exit Kingdom: More of Alden Bell’s zombie apocalypse

Exit Kingdom by Alden Bell

Ok, first of all, what the hell is up with that cover? In what world is Moses Todd supposed to look like a refugee from a paranormal romance series airing on the CW? Not in mine, that’s for sure.

Alright, now that that’s off my chest we can continue. What we have here is the sequel/prequel to Alden Bell’s initial foray into the zombie apocalypse, The Reapers Are the Angels. This time around we follow former secondary characters Moses Todd and his brother in their rambles across a ravaged America prior to their meeting with Temple from the first book. Moses was really more of an antagonist to Temple than a villain, so seeing him fleshed out further here didn’t come across as either: a) a betrayal of the character’s nature or b) a picture of a completely unsympathetic anti-hero. Bell was even ab... Read More

The Doctor and the Kid: A fun-filled romp through the Wild West

The Doctor and the Kid by Mike Resnick

The Doctor and the Kid is the second novel in Mike Resnick’s WEIRD WEST TALES. I haven’t read the first book, The Buntline Special, but I could follow the events and characters just fine. The Doctor and the Kid works well as a stand-alone, though I probably would have had more attachment to the characters and the events if I had read The Buntline Special first. The only place where my lack of background was evident was with descriptions of the Buntline itself. I could never quite picture what exactly it was and I’m sure I wouldn’t have had that problem if I’d read The Buntline Special first.

The Doctor and the Kid is filled with characters ... Read More

Black Halo: Sam Sykes is a versatile author

Black Halo by Sam Sykes

In his first book, Tome of the Undergates, Sam Sykes proved he was a versatile author. He wrote some intense, realistic battles and mixed them with some of the most peaceful, beautiful passages I’ve seen in such a violent book. Interspersed with all of this was some fantastic humor that I’ve come to associate with Sykes.

In Black Halo, he takes everything he proved himself capable of in Tome of the Undergates and perfects it. The humor is more biting and the plot is paced perfectly. The reader will notice a lot of growth in the author between the first and second books of this series, and that’s really saying something, considering how impressive a debut Tome of the Undergates was.

Perhaps most impressively is how Sykes has so carefully decided to expand his world. Tome of... Read More

Stealing Magic: Full of unmet potential

Stealing Magic by Marianne Malone

Stealing Magic is the second book in Marianne Malone’s SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS adventure series for middle grade readers. The series has a fascinating premise — two 6th grade kids find a way to explore the Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute of Chicago and discover that they can use the rooms to get into the world of the time period the rooms depict. But Bill, Kelly, and I were disappointed because there was too little time spent actually exploring the fantasy worlds (which would be the fun part). Bill suggested that the first book might be an introduction to the series and he hoped for more adventure in subsequent novels.

Since the publisher of the audio version of the series recentl... Read More

The Shadow of the Soul: A complicated, suspenseful tale

The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the first book in the FORGOTTEN GODS trilogy, A Matter of Blood (reviewed here).

As The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough opens, Cass Jones has been through six months of interviews, arrests, statements and the backlash from his discovery of rampant corruption among his fellow police officers (as set forth in the first book of the FORGOTTEN GODS trilogy, A Matter of Blood), and it isn’t even close to over. It’s hard for him to care about anyone thinks about him, though, because all he has to do is remember the sight of his dead partner’s body at the bottom of the stairs of the Paddington Green station to fe... Read More

Words of Radiance: Worth the trip so far

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance is book two in Brandon Sanderson’s huge STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE series, projected to be ten books. In fact, at 1100 pages, Words of Radiance is almost large enough to be its own series (at least once upon a time — I’m thinking say of Zelazny’s AMBER series, or Donaldson’s original COVENANTtrilogy). With another eight thousand pages to go, who knows whether the trip will be worth it, but at this point the car is humming along, the scenery is nice, and the kids are getting along in the back seat.

Part of the reason the series is off to a smooth start is Sanderson’s consistent facility with regard to pace and plot. I have always found his books to regularly feel shorter than they a... Read More

Cold Fire: A strong second instalment in what promises to be a great trilogy

Cold Fire by Kate Elliott

This is the second book in Kate Elliott's SPIRIT WALKER trilogy, preceded by Cold Magic and concluded in Cold Steel, but which manages to avoid most of the pitfalls inherent in many second installments. It's a direct continuation of the previous book (making it impossible to start reading with this one) and there's still a long way to go till the finish line, but despite ending on something of a cliff-hanger, it still delivers a relatively satisfying story-arc with a climactic finish and a sense of completeness.

Catherine Bell Barahal has been having a rough year. Married against her will to an aristocratic Cold Mage in her cousin's place, she not only learns that her parentage isn't what she thought it was, but that (having realized that she isn't the bride that was promised them) her husband's family now want her dead. Fleeing for her safety and discovering her roots provid... Read More

Web of Lies: Proceeds in rather obvious ways

Web of Lies by Jennifer Estep

Web of Lies is the second book in Jennifer Estep’s ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series about Gin Blanco, a young woman with elemental powers who was orphaned when she was a girl and was found and raised by an assassin who taught her the tricks of the trade. She’s known as The Spider — the best assassin in the city — and is now wealthy enough to retire, which she is trying to do. She spends her days running a barbeque restaurant, but trouble keeps finding her and she can’t turn her back on people who need her help... or people who need to be killed.

This time trouble is in the form of a college girl named Violet Fox whose family owns some property coveted by a man who’s trying to coerce them into selling it to him. He owns coalmines and wants to add their land to his domain. Now he’s getting ruthless and he will use any amount of force needed to get that land. It’s up to Gin to stop him ... Read More

Glamour in Glass: I would like to see more of Jane and Vincent

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

Glamour in Glass in a fast-paced magical adventure set in the Regency period, during the Peninsular Wars. This is Mary Robinette Kowal’s second book in her series that started with Shades of Milk and Honey.

Kowal captures the language and sensibility of Jane Austen’s era exactly. Jane and Vincent, both accomplished glamourists, have been married for three months. After Jane struggles to get through a nerve-wracking state dinner hosted by the Prince of Wales, she discovers that the prince has offered them a honeymoon trip to Belgium. Vincent is eager to go because he wants to discuss his new glamour, a sphere that creates invisibility, with one of his old glamourist friends. Napoleon has accepted exile on Elba and things are peaceful, so Jane and Vincent decide to go.

Kowal makes a high-risk choice in Glamour in Glass. Jane, despite her self-d... Read More

Extinction: Did Not Finish

Extinction by B.V. Larson

Extinction is the second novel in B.V. Larson’s STAR FORCE series about professor Kyle Riggs who was picked up by an alien spaceship and now captains a fleet of ships that are protecting earth from other aliens. I called the first book, Swarm, “a silly, but exciting, male wish-fulfillment fantasy.” I wouldn’t have moved on to book two, but the audiobook publisher sent it to me for a review, so here we are.

Extinction takes place soon after the events of Swarm. Kyle has made a deal with the bad aliens. He promised that if they’d leave the Earth alone, he’d supply them with trained troops to help them fight their other battles around the universe. He needs to get those troops ready before the aliens come to collect. He also needs to figure out how to make more spaceships because the alie... Read More

Citadel: Better than first book, but still not good

Citadel by John Ringo

Citadel is the second in John Ringo’s TROY RISING series. The first book, Live Free or Die, had an interesting plot that was totally derailed by John Ringo’s intrusive and ugly political views which seem closer to neo-Nazism than anything else. So why did I read Citadel? Only because the audiobook publisher sent me a free copy and, out of a sense of completion, I wanted to review it for FanLit. I was prepared to hate it.

Fortunately, Tyler Vernon the Nazi is only a secondary character in Citadel. The plot mostly follows two new recruits who are joining Earth’s space defenses on Troy, the hollowed-out asteroid that Vernon built as a battle station. Dana is a pilot who’s got some mad flying skills. Butch is a welder. Interestingly, to me at least, Butch was trained in my hometown on Florida’s “Space Coast,” so Ringo won me over a little when we sp... Read More