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Rise of the Vicious Princess: A smartly written YA princess novel

Rise of the Vicious Princess by C.J. Redwine

I get a big kick out of reading books not specifically for my demographic. Actually, let me rephrase that. I enjoy reading books that I assume are not written for my demographic. I’m a guy, so stories about princesses are off the table. Perhaps you’re a girl and that John Wick in Space book is not supposed to be your cup of tea. I beg to differ, and love to step outside my comfort zone and read material that is not necessarily written with me in mind. It was under that assumption that I picked up Rise of the Vicious Princess by C.J. Redwine.

The story follows Charis Willowthorn (pronounced Kaw-Ris), the teenage princess of the Fantasy Medieval-ish realm called Calera. Calera is a fairly prosperous country that shares a war-torn continent with a few other kingdoms. They have fancy balls filled with courtesans and fancy folk of one kind or another. Court poli... Read More

Age of Ash: The first in yet another must-read series

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham

I have to say, my timing of reading Daniel Abraham’s newest novel, Age of Ash (2022), couldn’t have been better, coming as it did right after I finished the last EXPANSE novel, the series he co-wrote with Ty Franck (as James S.A. Corey). After all, while THE EXPANSE has been my favorite sci-fi series for the past number of years, Abraham was also responsible for two of my favorite fantasy series: Read More

Ghostlight: An entertaining and engaging MG ghost story

Ghostlight by Kenneth Oppel

Kenneth Oppel’s Ghostlight is a quick-moving MG story involving a trio of teens battling a long-dead villain seeking to raise an army of ghosts in modern-day Toronto. Full of action, the narrative also includes a number of brief but effective emotional moments and also highlights the poor treatment of Native groups.

Gabe Vasilakis has a summer job giving the Ghost Tour of the Toronto’s Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, which in 1839 saw the unexplained deaths of its keeper and his 16-year-old daughter, Rebecca Strand. Unexplained no more, though, as Gabe ends up able to communicate with Rebecca and thus learns she and her father were part of a secret order of ghost-banishing “Keepers” who “protect the harbors, the cities, the coastlines of the world … since the Lighthouse of Alexandria … stand[ing] guard over the night to protect the living from the wakeful and wicked d... Read More

Fevered Star: A somewhat slower pace through a richly constructed world

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse 

Fevered Star (2022) is the follow-up to Rebecca Roanhorse’s enjoyably original Black Sun, set in a fantastical Mesoamerica (with a few other cultures mixed in as well). As the second book, it does suffer somewhat from that dreaded middle book curse, but Roanhorse offers enough original worldbuilding here to compensate for the book’s weaker aspects, leaving the reader eager to see the trilogy’s conclusion.

As with Black Sun, Roanhorse employs multiple points of view to tell the story, including the Crow God’s avatar Serapio, the Sun God’s priest Naranpa, the Teek sh... Read More

The Green Rust: Proto-Bond

The Green Rust by Edgar Wallace

In Ian Fleming’s 10th James Bond novel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963), 007 foils a plot by the Germanic supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld to use biological agents to destroy a goodly part of the world’s farm crops. But as it turns out, this was not the first time that an English author had given his readers a story featuring a Prussian madman employing bacterial warfare to cut off part of the globe’s food supply! A full 44 years earlier, we find Edgar Wallace, the so-called “King of Thrillers,” coming up with a similar dastardly scheme, in his 1919 offering entitled Green Rust. Wallace’s novel was initially released by the British publisher Ward, Lock & Co. and has seen a modest number of other editions since, sometimes under its original title The Green Rust, and other times as just Read More

The Liminal People: Imaginative, violent, and exciting

The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett

If we could use our minds to make others see what we wanted them to see, rearrange people’s internal organs and dissolve their musculature, call animals to do our every bidding, or know others’ thoughts as intimately as our own, wouldn’t we rule the world? Or would we be so preoccupied with fighting with others like us that humans would be mere pawns, little worth toying with? Or, even worse, would we be so damaged by our powers that we would be dangerous to ourselves and others?

These are all questions posed by Ayize Jama-Everett’s short, powerful first novel, The Liminal People (2012). Jama-Everett’s first person narrator, Taggert, introduces himself while in the midst of conducting a drug sale he is conducting on behalf of his mentor, Nordeen Maximus. Taggert is able to keep the transaction from going sour by putting his would-be assassins to sleep wit... Read More

The Fall of Babel: A satisfying and emotional ending

The Fall of Babel by Josiah Bancroft

Thomas Senlin’s bizarre, chaotic, and perilous adventure in the Tower of Babel finally ends in the fourth book of Josiah Bancroft’s BOOKS OF BABEL series: The Fall of Babel. If you haven’t read the first three books, Senlin Ascends, Arm of the Sphinx, and The Hod King, stop now and get those under your belt before reading this review. I don’t want to spoil them for you. I recommend picking up Hachette Audio’s editions read by John Banks. They are so entertaining.

The Fall of Babe... Read More

The Wonder: Too cool for school

The Wonder by J.D. Beresford

As I believe I’ve mentioned elsewhere, one of the pet themes of both Radium Age and Golden Age sci-fi was that of the ubermensch (superman) or the wunderkind (child prodigy), as the case may be; individuals who, as a result of a mutation or genetic engineering, and whether deliberately or accidentally created, came to possess mental and/or physical abilities that separate them from the ruck of humanity. I have already written here of such ubermensch novels as Seeds of Life (1931) by John Taine, in which Neils Bork, a lab worker, is changed after being exposed to a massive dose of X rays and electricity; Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 12): Metamorphosis: Two stories featuring B.P.R.D. member Johann Krauss

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 12): Metamorphosis by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Peter Snejbjerg (art), Julian Totino Tedesco (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters). 

This volume consists of two stories. In the first, “Nowhere, Nothing, Never,” Johann has a crisis of sorts, and his team at the B.P.R.D. is turning on him, finding him responsible for mistakes that they feel should not have been made. He talks with Liz to figure out how she lives with the fact that she has killed a lot of people, but the conversation doesn’t go as well as it could. Thus, Johann makes an important decision and acts alone, releasing himself into the night air, giving himself a chance for death as far as we know at the end of issue number one in this story arc. But there’s more to the story than we first get. Kate forces a member of Johann’s team to give a report on what happened on the mission, and Joha... Read More

The Greatest Invention: A History of the World in Nine Mysterious Scripts

The Greatest Invention: A History of the World in Nine Mysterious Scripts by Sylvia Ferrara, translated by Todd Portnowitz

Sylvia Ferrara is an Italian scholar/researcher/professor who has devoted much of her life, both in solo work and (more importantly and effectively to her) in collaboration, to learning how writing developed/develops and to deciphering a number of scripts that have stubbornly resisted translation. In The Greatest Invention she offers the fruits of that research in often fascinating, sometimes dizzying, sometimes frustrating, always exuberant fashion.

The dizzying part comes partly from the way Ferrara flies all over the place in space and time, hitting regions such as China, Crete, Easter Island, Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, Central and South America, and the United States, among others, all of them at various stages of mostly ancient but sometimes recent history. The fascina... Read More

The Girl in the Golden Atom: “One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small…”

The Girl in the Golden Atom by Ray Cummings

In Irish author Fitz James O’Brien’s classic novella of 1858, entitled “The Diamond Lens,” a scientist, employing his newly invented supermicroscope, is able to observe a beautiful young woman who lives in the impossibly small world of a droplet of water. Flash forward 77 years, and we find British author Festus Pragnell, in the novel The Green Man of Graypec (1935), giving us the tale of a man who is accidentally sucked, via his scientist brother’s new supermicroscope, into the subatomic world of Kilsona, where he is forced to abide for some time. Sandwiched between these two works, however, is a book that has, over the decades, managed to achieve for itself pride of place in these kind of microverse affairs, in... Read More

The Grief of Stones: An immersive story that draws you in

The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison 

The Grief of Stones (2022) is Katherine Addison’s newest work focusing on Thara Celehar, a Prelate of Ulis and, more importantly, a Witness for the Dead — someone who can communicate (albeit it in very limited fashion) with the recently deceased. In the prior novel, titled aptly enough The Witness for the Dead, Celehar uses that gift to help solve several murders.

They also, much to their dismay, end up the go-to-person (or the hapless person in the wrong place at the wrong time) for dealing with various types of undead, such as ghouls. Both elements — murder and undead — crop up here as well. Which, along with other reasons, makes Read More

Scary Stories for Young Foxes: The City: Manmade threats for the foxes

Scary Stories for Young Foxes: The City by Christian McKay Heidicker

Three young fox kits, romping through their first heavy snow, come upon a gravely injured older fox in the woods. The wounded fox asks for their help, and the kits are understandably reluctant. Then the stranger fox says that he needs to tell them a story first. A scary story, but not of predators and dangers of the forest. The City and a nearby farm have equally horrifying dangers for foxes.

The Stranger’s story begins at a fox farm, where cousins O-370 and R-211 (all of the foxes at the farm have numbers and letters for names) retell the adventures of Mia and Uly, told in the first book in this series, Chris Heidicker’s Newbery Honor book Scary Stories for Young Foxes... Read More

The Origin of Storms: Wraps up a good trilogy in mostly strong fashion

The Origin of Storms by Elizabeth Bear

The Origin of Storms (2022) is Elizabeth Bear’s mostly satisfying conclusion to her generally excellent LOTUS KINGDOM’s trilogy, continuing the prior books’ strengths of strong characterization and sharp social commentary. Spoilers to follow for books one (The Stone in the Skull)  and two (The Red-Stained Wings).

After the events of the first two books, Rajni Mrithuri is now the Dowager Empress, ruler of conjoined kingdoms and the person with the strongest claim to the Alchemical Throne (though she has yet to risk sitting on it). That said, she has no gu... Read More

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 10): The Devil’s Wings: Three apocalyptic stories

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 10): The Devil’s Wings by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Laurence Campbell (art), Joe Querio (art), Tyler Crook (art), Dave Stewart (colors), Clem Robins (letters).

This volume includes several stories, the first of which is “The Devil’s Wings.” In this story, taking place at the B.P.R.D. Headquarters, the power goes out, and in the darkness, the mad professor in the compound studies by candlelight the report on Captain Breccan, a man around whom strange occurrences took place, with the death and madness of two men associated with him and his disappearance from a military jail. While the professor studies, Kate runs into her own problems in the main control room as contact with Johann in Japan is cut off and Panya, right next to her, seemingly vanishes.

In this story, we get a few flashbacks with Hellboy as a young child and Bruttenholm, and any B.P.R.D. featuring Hellboy is a wel... Read More

The Boat of a Million Years: A millennia-spanning epic

The Boat of a Million Years by Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson’s millennia-spanning epic The Boat of a Million Years (1989) follows the lives of several unusual human beings starting from a few hundred years before the birth of Christ and ending sometime in the far future.

For some unknown reason, these folks are essentially immortal, not appearing to age past 25 years old and remaining fertile forever. They heal quickly and are immune to disease, though they can be killed by accident or murder.

The problem is that these few immortal people, who are born at different times in different parts of the world, do not know each other and each assumes he or she is the only immortal person alive. Living forever is not a lot of fun when everyone around you eventually dies, including your friends, lovers, and children. When this goes on for hundreds of years, it gets pretty depressing. Besides that, if... Read More

The Light in the Sky: Aztec Two-Step

The Light in the Sky by Herbert Clock & Eric Boetzel

In H. Rider Haggard’s 16th novel, the epic blockbuster Montezuma’s Daughter (1893), the reader is introduced to a young man named Thomas Wingfield, a European (half English, half Spanish) who is captured by the ancient Aztecs in the New World of the 16th century. Wingfield eventually becomes something of a living god among them, marries the titular Otomie, and witnesses the arrival and eventual conquest of the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes. It is a truly wonderful piece of historical fiction, with minimal fantastic content. But 36 years later, another book would be released with many of the same plot points mentioned above, but updated to a modern setting, and with the fantasy elements very much in the fore... Read More

Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses

Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses by Jackie Higgins

In Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses, Jackie Higgins smoothly and successfully merges what could have been two popular science books — one on animal senses and one on human perception. Instead of separating the two subjects, here Higgins uses one as a vehicle for exploring the other.

More precisely, by examining a dozen animal species and focusing on a single sensory trait they possess, Higgins casts a clarifying light on our own sensory abilities, including those we may not even be aware of.

Each chapter focuses on a single creature and sense, as follows:

Peacock Mantis Shrimp: color vision
Great Gray Owl: hearing
Star-Nosed Mole: touch
Common Vampire Bat: pleasure/pain
Goliath Catfish: taste
Bloodhound: sme... Read More

Stars Above: Backstories and an epilogue for the LUNAR CHRONICLES

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Readers who didn’t get enough of Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES will be pleased to find Stars Above (2016), a collection of nine stories that give fans more backstory on their favorite characters as well as a romantic epilogue.

Some of these stories can stand alone, giving you a taste of what to expect in the LUNAR CHRONICLES series, but it’d be most meaningful and enjoyable to read Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter Read More

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

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (vol. 7): A Cold Day In Hell: The apocalypse is here

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth (volume 7): A Cold Day in Hell by by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Laurence Campbell (art), Peter Snejbjerg (art), Dave Stewart (colors), & Clem Robins (letters)

In this seventh volume, Kraus leads a B.P.R.D. crew to Chicago. Unfortunately, on the way there, their air transport is taken down when they are attacked by a giant monster. Once they are grounded, they are attacked by smaller monsters that we’ve seen in previous volumes. These monsters are smaller than the giant monster that attacked them in the helicopter, but these are still large, several sizes larger than an elephant even. They defend themselves, killing a few creatures, but then they have to head out on foot the rest of the way to Chicago. Not far into their journey, they find horses and continue on horseback. Kraus narrates the journey for us, but they don’t reach their destination until the third issue in the collection.
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The Adam Project: A fun family film

The Adam Project

A few things to know up front about The Adam Project. If you don’t like time travel movies, especially ones that don’t delve much into details or deal with paradoxes with more than a throwaway line here or there, it’s not the movie for you. If you don’t like Ryan Reynolds being, well, Ryan Reynolds, it’s not the movie for you. And if you prefer movies to break new ground, turn down startling paths, subvert tropes, you won’t find that here. On the other hand, if those aren’t deal-breakers, and you enjoy fast, quippy dialogue broken up every 15 minutes or so with some popcorn action scenes and every now and then with some quietly sincere emotional moments, Netflix’s film should hit all the sweet spots.

The film opens with a bang, with Adam Reed (Reynolds) being pursued in near-space after stealing a “time-j... Read More

Winter: A satisfying ending to this enjoyable series

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Winter (2015) is the fourth and final novel in Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES series for young adults. You need to read the first three novels, Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress first. There will be some spoilers for those previous stories in this review.

Winter, which is loosely based on the Snow White fairytale, begins in Queen Levana’s court. The evil queen thought she’d be empress of the galaxy by this point but, so far, her plans have been thwarted. She’s taking out her anger on her own citizens and requi... Read More

The City of Wonder: Location, location, location?

The City of Wonder by E. Charles Vivian

Just recently, this reader had some words to say about a lost-race novel written by an Englishman; no, not H. Rider Haggard, the Norfolk-born writer who would go on to become “The Father of the Lost-Race Novel,” but rather Victor Rousseau, who had impressed me with his 1916 offering The Sea Demons. Well, now I am here to tell you of another lost-race affair, written some six years later by still another Englishman. The book in question this time is called The City of Wonder and was written by one E. Charles Vivian. A more impressively penned novel than Rousseau’s, the book combines the standard lost-world/... Read More

The Thousand Eyes: A good continuation of the SERPENT GATES series

The Thousand Eyes by A.K. Larkwood

In The Thousand Eyes (2022), A.K. Larkwood keeps all the good parts of The Unspoken Name — the first book in THE SERPENT GATES series — brings back most of the characters, and adds a few new ones into the mix while improving on some of the prior novel’s weaker areas, crafting a successful sequel that avoids the dreaded “second book” syndrome. Some inevitable spoilers for The Unspoken Name ahead.

At the start, Shuthmilli, Csorwe, and Tal are working to make themselves some money since the latter two left the services of immortal wizard Belthandros, but events quickly conspire to embroil them in major events, leading to some odd and someti... Read More