Posts from 2017

Review

Gods & Monsters: Mythbreaker

Posted: December 21, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Stephen Blackmoore, Urban Fantasy
Gods & Monsters: Mythbreaker

Steak and potatoes. These two foods comprise the epitome of a hearty American dinner. So if I wanted to make an apropos comparison of such an eating experience to reading a book, then that reading experience would be: full of goodness, tender and tasty, and most of all filling. At the end of such a read, I would expect to be satisfied, and if not necessarily ready to dive into the next book, at least ready to move on to something new. One could easily make other such comparisons between food and reading. And if I had to make a food-based comparison to reading this book, it’d be a bowl full of popcorn: easy to keep reading, exciting enough to keep my interest, and regardless of how it ends, finding that I have a bit of a belly-ache afterward. As with reading many of these kinds of books, once in a while they can be fun, but too many in a row? No thank you, sir. But it had been a while since I’d read a popcorn novel. So.
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Review

The Stone Sky

Posted: December 12, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: N.K. Jemisin, Fantasy
The Stone Sky

Essun plans to move the moon back into orbit around the earth, and in THE OBELISK GATE she learned that there may very well be a cost–her own life–if she attempts it. But first, she needs to find her daughter Nassun, who, it’s turning out, is as powerful an orogene as her mother.

Yet so many things still stand in Essun’s way.
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Review

Persepolis Rising

Posted: December 5, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: James S.A. Corey, Science Fiction
Persepolis Rising

…and so here I am, writing a review for a book that I haven’t even received in the mail yet, and I realize just how upside-down the world has turned. I mean, YES, I was uber-excited to get the story early, but there’s just something that I miss about being able to turn the actual pages of a real book. The feel of the paper in my fingers, the visual cue of the turning of the page, the smell of it. It all just seems a bit MORE when I get the physical book. When I can see it on my shelf, sitting there staring back at me. For some reason, ebooks just make a story seem somehow… easier than they should. Less substantive. So am I over-exaggerating at all when I tell you I’m even more excited to get my actual book in the mail later tonight, on the date of “publication”, than I was to get the eARC I actually read? Not in the slightest. In fact, I may just have to start reading this one again. When I get home from work tonight. Just… you know… don’t tell my boss or anything. Cause I really should be reading the next book in my queue. 🙂
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Review

The Unholy Consult

Posted: November 30, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Like...and Hate Meta: R. Scott Bakker, Epic Fantasy
The Unholy Consult

Less than an hour before I sat down to write this review, I pulled my youngest daughter’s loose front tooth from her mouth and thought what an amazingly apt comparison I might make between that act and this effort. Writing this review is a concept that I’ve done no small amount of pondering upon.

If you’ve had the pleasure of reading my previous reviews on the books in this series, you’ll know I’ve not been much of a fan. And yet, they also contain within them some of the most amazing “fantastical stuff” (highly technical term) that I’ve read in literally any other fantasy book/series. So, much like my moments-earlier tooth extraction, I’ve decided to pull the painful review that I might otherwise have written, and instead put together a review that addresses everything I’ve been thinking about this book. Taking it, holding it aloft, and examining it from every angle, so to speak, now that it will no longer be paining me.

Granted, such a review is going to be considerably longer than my regular fare, so I feel as if I need to give a small qualifier to all you readers. If you’re up for a bit more of my blabbering blatherskyte than usual, by all means sally forth and tally ho. I’ll begin in short measure. If, however, you’re just looking for the Cliff’s Notes version, well, here you are: TL;DR Nearly identical in every aspect to the previous books in the series. If you liked them, you’ll like this one. If you didn’t, you won’t.
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Review

A Lot Like Christmas

Posted: November 16, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Connie Willis, Science Fiction, Short Fiction
A Lot Like Christmas

I’ve always loved Connie Willis. She’s the kind of writer who makes reading fun, whose stories engage her readers and really makes them think. Her stories are full of the whimsical, absurd, and humorous with endearing characters, clever prose, and witty dialogue. Connie’s collection of Christmas-themed short stories was first published in 2000, but lucky us, this year we get an updated and expanded edition in A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. Connie writes Christmas with heart and delight, hope and joy, but still with her signature twisty elements that take you where you don’t expect–and to a better story. I love The Washington Post‘s quote from the flyer insert the publisher included: “A novelist who can plot like Agatha Christie and whose books possess a bounce and stylishness…” What better way to read about Christmas than with “bounce and stylishness” because that implies a joy for the process of telling a story.

All of the short stories are great because she’s not afraid to mix faith and science fiction, allowing religion center stage without forcing it on readers. Here are some of my favorites from the collection.
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Review

Oathbringer

Posted: November 14, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Brandon Sanderson, Epic Fantasy
Oathbringer

The eagerly awaited continuation of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series has arrived. OATHBRINGER is everything you want it to be. It’s big (1233 pages!) and continues the amazing stories from THE WAY OF KINGS and WORDS OF RADIANCE. Buckle in your seat belts, folks.

For those of you who need a refresher about what came before, check out Tor.com’s “Before Oathbringer” article.
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Review

Strange Dogs

Posted: November 9, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: James S.A. Corey, Science Fiction
Strange Dogs

When originally planning out my review for this one, I thought about beginning with a strongly-worded letter to the publisher about ebooks in general, but decided against it. Instead, I’m going to opt for writing a strongly worded letter to all publishers of ebooks with the purpose of letting them know about my little beef with the way they’re doing things. So, here we go. “To Whom It May Concern: I am a huge fan of reading awesome books, and I read many of them on the e-reader of my choice. At the bottom of every page of every story I receive for my e-reader is a little percentage scale, which I quite frequently reference while reading, that let’s me know just how far I am into the story and how much goodness I have left to go. This tool has become a staple for me when reading books for the purpose of reviewing them. While reading this book, however, I came to a point that my e-reader’s scale said was about 65% of the way through the book when I found these unexpected words on the next page: THE END. I was incredibly perturbed by finding that the story I was reading was inexplicably over, and that the remaining 35% of the file was filled with sample chapters I had no interest in reading whatsoever. Hrm. How to say this nicely? Please do not do this to me again. There. If you want to give me sample chapters, which I am usually quite amenable to receiving, please instead include a link to said sample chapters on your website or other online location so that I do not feel cheated when suddenly finishing the awesome stories I expected to get in the first place. Thank you. Sincerely Yours, Your Somewhat-Disgruntled Yet Still Mostly-Friendly Neighborhood Team of Elitists”
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Review

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Posted: November 7, 2017 by Vanessa in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Ruth Emmie Lang, Urban Fantasy
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Weylyn Grey isn’t like other people and he knows it. He’s a kid living with wolves in the woods when Mary first meets him. His parents are dead and his wolf family needs him, but he’s also painfully aware that he doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the kids his age. He wants to try to fit in, but every time he attempts to become a functioning member of human society, there’s always something that goes awry, so he ultimately returns to the wild. And yet, it’s his connection with Mary and a few other people he meets along the way, that reminds him about the power of human relationships.

But it takes him a long time to understand, and we spend the book learning about how different he really is.
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Review

The Stone in the Skull

Posted: November 2, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Elizabeth Bear, Fantasy
The Stone in the Skull

If you read Elizabeth Bear’s The Eternal Sky series (RANGE OF GHOSTS starts the trilogy), then you’ll love her new The Lotus Kingdoms series (which takes place in the same universe) starting with THE STONE IN THE SKULL. However, even if you haven’t read her before, if you like clever and beautifully written novels, then you should be reading more Elizabeth Bear.

From the dustjacket: “The Gage is a brass automaton created by a wizard of Messaline around the core of a human being. His wizard is long dead, and he works as a mercenary. He is carrying a message from a the most powerful sorcerer of Messaline to the Rajni of the Lotus Kingdom. With him is The Dead Man, a bitter survivor of the body guard of the deposed Uthman Caliphate, protecting the message and the Gage. They are friends, of a peculiar sort.

“They are walking into a dynastic war between the rulers of the shattered bits of a once great Empire.”
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Review

The Creeping Shadow

Posted: October 24, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Johnathan Stroud, Horror, Middle Grade
The Creeping Shadow

I suppose I should be embarrassed for the squees involved in a series meant for middle grade readers. Certainly I am an Elitist, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give recognition where it is due. And Johnathan Stroud is due recognition for a smart, well-written, engaging horror series known as Lockwood & Co.

In THE HOLLOW BOY Lucy’s ability to talk to ghosts changes everything, and she learns that if she stays with the company her presence may be the result of Lockwood’s death. So, out of loyalty and love for her friend and co-worker, she leaves to become a freelancer. In the opening of THE CREEPING SHADOW we see how Lucy is handling her new life–and learning the hard way how much more competent Lockwood and Co. is than other ghost hunting groups. Sure she misses her old team, but is determined to never go back.

She sticks to her plan until the day Lockwood shows up at her little apartment to hire her for a job that the famed Penelope Fittes wants them to do–and it requires Lucy’s special listening skills. How can she say no?
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Review

Luna: Wolf Moon

Posted: October 12, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Hate Meta: Ian McDonald, Science Fiction
Luna: Wolf Moon

You may have already noticed, but there’s this little fever burning through the public at large right now concerning a certain speculative fiction series. Its novels are door-stoppers, its HBO episodes are reportedly hitting $15M a piece to produce, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (heh-heh) to realize that hitching your ride to such a wagon might not be the worst idea in the world if you’re looking to make a few bucks. It’s also available for attaching parallels that can instantly make a connection to the minds of many readers. So, seeing this book’s predecessor described as “A Game of Moons”, is sure to pull in more than a few readers, yeah? You’d think. But the difficult part in all of that would be the actual story, and whether it can stand up to such a comparison to a story that is loved by, literally, millions. Maybe you all can see where I’m going with this, and if you happen to remember my review of that last book, it’ll probably even be an easier line to pick up.
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Review

Horizon

Posted: October 10, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Fran Wilde, Fantasy
Horizon

The city is dying. But those still living on the bone towers have no idea how much danger they’re in, because they haven’t seen what Kirit, Nat, Wik, and Ciel have seen. So many questions are answered, and not necessarily in the ways you’d expect. If you haven’t read book 2 CLOUDBOUND, then anything I say here about the final book HORIZON will be spoilers. Consider yourself warned.
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Review

The Guns Above

Posted: October 3, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Robyn Bennis, Steampunk
The Guns Above

If you were disappointed in my mediocre rating for ARABELLA OF MARS (EBR review), then here is the book that will fulfill your military-steampunk airship cravings and to spare. THE GUNS ABOVE is everything ARABELLA isn’t: engaging characters, easy to read prose, exciting plot, hilarious dialogue, and a lead female character with brains.

Hallelujah.
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Review

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror

Posted: September 28, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Like Meta: Ellen Datlow (Ed), Horror, Short Fiction
Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror

Horror is a genre that I really don’t feel like I’ve been able to fully sink my teeth into yet. I’m really a fantasy guy at heart, with a science-fed brain at the helm, and a soul that can’t help but love a good story. So while I don’t typically go out searching for new horror, I love coming across a new piece of horrific something that just hits my emotional buttons the right way. Of the several anthologies that we received via Ellen Datlow recently, this was the one I was initially most excited to read, even though I recognized the fewest number of names among the authorial inclusions. Someday I’m going to get my name (or pseudonym) in one of these things. Can’t wait for the day. Until then, I’m sure there’ll be a steady stream of them coming from the likes of Datlow and others. Each of them trying to lead its readers down a path that they might otherwise not necessarily want to visit, but are overwhelmingly compelled to, nonetheless. Some will succeed in fabulous fashion. Others, not so much. Depends on which buttons you like to have pushed and how hard. This anthology had a handful of those for me. Not as many as I might have liked, true. But enough that I really enjoyed what I found.
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Review

Urban Enemies

Posted: September 14, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Joseph Nassise (Ed), Urban Fantasy
Urban Enemies

In general, I tend to steer clear of Urban Fantasy. Always have. Every once in a while I’ll make a foray into the realm, but by and large I’ve been disappointed with what I’ve found. The obvious exceptions, for me, being Butcher, Correia, and Hanover. The really difficult part is that there is quite literally a metric ton of Urban Fantasy books out there, and there are more and more showing up on the shelves all the time. With all those possible choices available, how does one go about finding the next great Urban Fantasy series/author to start reading? Well, short stories can sometimes help give you an idea as to whether you’re going to like an author or not. Trouble is, even some of the really popular novel authors don’t know how to write a good short story. So how can you tell? I’ll always fall back on recommendations. Anyone got one for me? I’ll trade you a few. Check it out.
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Review

Arabella of Mars

Posted: September 11, 2017 by Vanessa in Books that are Mediocre Meta: David D. Levine, Steampunk
Arabella of Mars

Teenage Arabella Ashby was born and raised on the planet Mars–in a steampunk Victorian Era of inter-planetary ship travel. So imagine sea ships that travel between planets, Victorian manners and mores, and a Burroughs-like Mars landscape. David Levine’s ARABELLA OF MARS has been compared as a mashup of Horatio Hornblower, Burroughs’s Mars books, and Jane Austin, a conglomeration of all the things we love best about those three genres with steampunk thrown in.

Unfortunately it’s also dreadfully dull.
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Review

City of Miracles

Posted: August 31, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Robert Jackson Bennett, Fantasy
City of Miracles

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a series of books as I did here: one immediately after the other. It almost feels like I’m cheating the author in a way. I mean, this guy took five years to write these three books, and I go and burn through them all in just a few weeks. I mean, granted, they were awesome. So, why would I want to put off reading them? Exactly. I wouldn’t. In fact, I don’t think you should either. Get em now. Read em now. Such good stuff.
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Review

City of Blades

Posted: August 30, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Robert Jackson Bennett, Fantasy
City of Blades

I told you this one would be coming really soon didn’t I? Oh yeah. The third book in this series was published in May of this year, and when I realized that a handful of weeks ago, I bought them all and got busy, because I immediately knew how I wanted to do this. So, I’m guessing that you’ll figure out fairly quickly what’s going to be coming your way… um… tomorrow? Ha, ha! Goodness for the readers! And if you’re interested in goodness, I checked out the author’s website last night and he has this killer sketch-rewrite of the Star Wars prequel movies that would have been so genius to see. Well, in all honesty, it wouldn’t take much to come up with a story that’s better than what we got, but trust me Bennett’s ideas are dang cool. I’ll wait to put a link for his blog post at the end of this review though. Cause you’re gonna want to check this out first.
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Review

City of Stairs

Posted: August 29, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Robert Jackson Bennett, Fantasy
City of Stairs

This is another one of those authors that I’ve been meaning to get to for a long time now. Long time. Yeesh. Ever since I read Steve’s review of The Company Man. I’ve even bought two of this guy’s books at a second-hand store without even looking at the blurb since reading that review, but I just hadn’t worked any of them into my reading queue yet. Ugh, and I’m so regretting the fact that it took me this long. Because, you see, there are authors that write decent books, and there are authors that write good books, and then there are authors that make you never want to miss anything else that they ever write. Period. Like Abercrombie. Like Reynolds. Like Abraham. Like Erikson. And even though I wouldn’t say that Bennett writes like any one of these authors in particular, in reading this book I did find that he does have the chops to land himself in the same category of books as those storied authors: those of Books We Love.
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Review

Nothing Left To Lose

Posted: August 17, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Dan Wells, Horror
Nothing Left To Lose

I can still remember reading I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER like it was just last week, though my rational brain tells me it was significantly longer ago than that. That book had a hook that hit me hard and deep. It was an easy setup to summarize, and so I told all my friends about it. Lots of them read it. Everyone liked it at first. About half of them decided they didn’t anymore when they found out it was a freaking “fantasy” book halfway through the thing. The other half, like me, crowed when the demon first made its appearance, and it was the appearance of that first demon that opened John Wayne Cleaver’s eyes to the wider world and what was out there. First one demon, and then another, and another, and soon he found out that there was a whole flock of them spread throughout the world. From that first view until now, I have loved every minute of this series and the story it’s brought me. But now the fear is finally setting in. The fear that this just might be the last time I get to ride this bike, and it’s scaring me half to death.
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Review

Wicked Like a Wildfire

Posted: August 8, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Lana Popovic, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Wicked Like a Wildfire

Twin sisters Melina and Iris aren’t your typical teenagers. For one, they are half-Japanese (a father they never knew) living in a village in modern-day Montenegro. They’re exceptionally beautiful and talented, Melina with music and Iris with color and art. And they have magic.

Some might call them witches. Their mother calls it the “gleam” and when they do magic together it’s called “eating the moon.” Whatever it is, they are otherworldly women living in a village where they hopefully won’t get too much attention.

However, after accidentally exposing their magic in front of a neighbor their mother Jasmina forbids the girls from doing their magic–especially Iris, whose flashy magic is the most noticeable. And they must never, under any circumstances, fall in love.
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Review

The Last Harvest

Posted: August 3, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Don't Like Meta: Kim Liggett, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
The Last Harvest

As I’m sitting down to write this review, I’m reminded of a card game that my oldest child taught us one night. It’s very similar to Uno, only played with a deck of face cards, and there are a whole lot of rules that the “director” of the game gets to make up. The rest of the players then spend the rest of the game trying to figure out what those rules are by watching the director abide by them and then trying to decipher what the rule governing the director’s actions might be. And then obviously duplicate all of them in such a way as to win the game before the director does. It is a wholly frustrating and ridiculous game, and I’ve forever banned it from being played at my house if I have to be involved. What can I say? I guess I just like knowing what the rules are when I get involved in something. That goes doubly for my reading experiences.
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Review

The Empty Ones

Posted: July 13, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Don't Like Meta: Robert Brockway, Urban Fantasy
The Empty Ones

So I was reading a book with my daughter the other day and she skipped half a line, mid-sentence. There were two “ands” in a single line and she went from one “and” to the other “and” without a beat. Just kept reading without realizing what she’d done. So, I called her on it. “How in the heck do you even do something like that?” I wondered aloud. We both had a good laugh over it. It was only considerably later that I realized while reading the book for this review I felt EXACTLY like I had when my daughter had skipped half the line while reading: like I was missing a ton of story that should have been there, but just wasn’t. No surprise on the rating then, eh? Yeah. This one was kind of a rough go. Okay, maybe not kind of.
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Review

Bannerless

Posted: July 6, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Carrie Vaughn, Dystopian SF
Bannerless

From the cover: “Decades after economic and environmental collapse destroys much of civilization in the United States, the Coast Road region isn’t just surviving but thriving by some accounts, building something new on the ruins of what came before. A culture of population control has developed in which people, organized into households, must earn the children they bear by proving they can take care of them, with symbolic banners awarded to demonstrate this privilege. In the meantime, birth control is mandatory.”

Our main character, Enid, is from the community called Haven, and works as an investigator–she mediates disputes and investigates offenses against those living along the Coast Road. In her mid-twenties, she’s considered young for the job, and her first big case is to investigate the suspicious death of a young man treated as an outcast.

Strangely enough, in the post-apocalypse life murder is rare. Strict controls of being able to prove your worth as a contributing member of the community means people are focused on surviving and earning the right to have offspring. While for the most part this concept works, too many chafe at the restriction, hence the need for investigators.
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Review

Fallen Stone

Posted: July 3, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Jana S Brown, Urban Fantasy
Fallen Stone

Once upon a time Misery was a holy warrior who came between humanity and evil. But eight years ago she left the Sentinels and since then has been using her earth magic to do odd jobs to pay the bills and stay one step ahead of her old boss. She currently finds herself in Denver and is finally starting to feel like life could be normal again, even if her roommate is eccentric. Finally, Misery thinks she might get ahead with a lucrative job for the Chimera Lord of Denver–and it may take every friend, resource, and bit of luck she has left to pull it off.

But something is rotten in the city of Denver when she discovers that lesser fae are going missing, and instead of skipping town when a Sentinel hunter tracks her down, she decides that sticking around is the only option. She just hopes pursuing the kidnappers won’t get her killed… again.
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Review

Humanity 2.0

Humanity 2.0

This one comes as yet another in a long line of short-story anthologies that have fallen into my lap. Most of the others up to this point have been fantastical (urban, heroic, horrific), but this one instead is of the science-fictiony variety. More specifically, it tries to deal with how humanity might change when, not if, interstellar travel becomes possible. Was hoping for some goodness out of this bunch of stories. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much.
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Review

Arm of the Sphinx

Posted: June 15, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Like Meta: Josiah Bancroft, Fantasy
Arm of the Sphinx

Early in my author-hopeful career, I attended a meeting for a local writer’s group where a middle-aged woman gave a presentation about writing character. Somewhere in the middle, she made a statement along the lines of, “If you want to change your point-of-view-character in the middle of a chapter, you must do it very carefully.” She then read an excerpt from a book she’d written that contained just such a change in point of view. When she’d finished reading from her book, I admit that I was completely flummoxed, as I didn’t understand at all how she’d been “careful” during the point of view shift. At the time, I was considerably too timid to raise my hand and tell her that she’d done it wrong and that, in fact, there was no correct way to do such a thing and not risk losing your reader’s attention. These days I highly doubt I’d be quite so demure.
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Review

Legend Has It

Posted: June 13, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Elliott James, Urban Fantasy
Legend Has It

From the back cover: “Someone, somewhere, is reading a magic book that is reading them right back. The line between fantasy and reality is breaking down, and real life is becoming a fairy tale: bored office workers are turning, quite literally, into zombies, bullies into black knights, and squatters beneath bridges into trolls. John Charming and his motley band of monster hunters are racing to find the real villain of this story, following the yellow brick road through a not-so-wonderful wonderland. And if they can’t find Reader X before the mysterious grimoire is closed, there won’t be a happily ever after again.”
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Review

Seeker

Posted: June 6, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Veronica Rossi, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Seeker

It isn’t the end of the world, but the Four Horsemen of the Apocalyse in their current incarnation as young men must use their new powers to stop the demon Samrael and save the incarnation of Famine from the rift where Samrael was sent at the end of RIDERS. Now in the second and final book of this duology, Daryn must find a way to save Sebastian–and do it without the sight, which she depended on to tell her the future.
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Review

Cosmic Powers

Cosmic Powers

It feels like I’ve been reading a lot of short fiction lately. Well, more than usual anyhow. There’s something about the quick in and quick out that’s attracting me right now for some reason. Perhaps it’s because I’ve run into a dearth of new novels from my favorite authors and I need to find some new sources for brilliant storytelling. It’s kind of a disquieting feeling for me to not have something in my queue that I’m ridiculously excited to read. This anthology definitely fit the bill, and it was science fiction to boot, which is a genre I’m always looking to fill with new favorites. And this time around, I think I might have found one or two. Praise.
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Review

The Collapsing Empire

Posted: May 30, 2017 by Shawn in Books We Like Meta: John Scalzi, Science Fiction
The Collapsing Empire

There’s something comforting about reading a series, isn’t there?  You get to come back to situations and characters you’ve already met and fell in love with (at least I’m assuming you fell in love with them, otherwise, why continue reading the series?).  It’s like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket.  On the other hand is the excitement of something new.  One of my favorite things of the Sci-fi/Fantasy genre is coming into a book and that opening, those first couple pages/chapters where everything is starting to take place in your head.  You start building a framework of this new world, these new people, this new story.  It’s fantastic (no pun intended).  For the last 15 years or so we’ve been getting Old Man’s War books from John Scalzi and then occasionally another standalone novel thrown in.  But the standalone novels have always been stand alone (I know that he had/has plans for more books in the Lock-in world and the Android’s Dream world, but we haven’t gotten those yet have we?).

Now for the first time in awhile we have a brand new universe for Scalzi to play in.  A whole new setting that will span at least a few books.  And while his other books have stood alone each telling their own stories and wrapping it all up, this one, THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE, is certainly just the beginning of a series.  There are a few minor things that get wrapped up, but the major stories, the major events are still very much open and ongoing.
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Review

The Monstrous

Posted: May 18, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Ellen Datlow (Ed), Horror, Short Fiction
The Monstrous

There is a certain way that little old ladies look at you when they find you reading books with covers like this one. There were several times while reading the book, however, that not only did I catch some of those little-old-lady glances, but I caught myself looking at the book itself with what I imagine to be a very similar facial expression to those ladies. It’s been a while since I’ve come across quite so many great stories as those that have been contained in these horror anthologies compiled by Ellen Datlow. The best part is that I have one more of these beauties sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to sink my claws into it. And after this one, I can’t wait to do just that.
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Review

Within the Sanctuary of Wings

Posted: May 9, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Marie Brennan, Fantasy
Within the Sanctuary of Wings

We’ve followed Lady Trent from the mountains of Vystrana to war-torn Eriga to the high seas to the deserts of the Akhia all for the sake of studying dragons. Now here we are at the fifth and final novel in this fantastic series, WITHIN THE SANCTUARY OF WINGS, and finale well worthy of Isabella and company.

After years of making a name for herself as a result of her study of dragons, Isabella, Lady Trent, has settled into a routine of study from her home in Scirland, supporting her husband’s linguistic endeavors, and encouraging her son’s education. While she’s happy with her life, she yearns for the adventure associated with her scientific finds that changed the face of the study of dragons. But what else is there for the woman who’s done everything?

Until one fateful day when a man brings her the story of the remains of a strange species of dragon found in the snow of the highest mountains in the world. Unfortunately in order to see it, she would have to travel to a territory claimed by Scirland’s enemies. Remember, this is Isabella we’re talking about, and little things like being banned from a country or traversing the highest mountain range will never deter her from her profound curiosity for all things dragon.
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Review

Sins of Empire

Posted: May 4, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Brian McClellan, Epic Fantasy
Sins of Empire

I’ve been meaning to read this guy’s books for quite a while now. Well, ever since his first book came out, because I heard it was pretty awesome, and how could you not love a story that mixed magic with black powder? For whatever reason, though, I just never picked one up. Until I listened to him speak at a writer’s convention. He mentioned something about how awesome Daniel Abraham’s most recent fantasy series was, and I figured if the guy loved Abraham’s method of storytelling, then he likely wouldn’t have written a bad book about black-powder mages, which was still a freaking cool idea, and I should give the guy a shot. The sooner the better. And after reading it, I think if you haven’t read his books yet, then you should “give him a shot” too. Ha. I kill myself sometimes.
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Review

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry

Posted: April 25, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Fredrick Backman, Fiction
My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry

Do you remember, as a young child, that one fantastical story which captured your imagination? Of course you do, because it’s the story that molded your childhood. It’s the story that filled you with a new wonder about the world around you, and of all that was possible. For me it was the story of Robin Hood. It had adventure, dashing heroes, young love, forests to explore, castles, and evil villains. I read many versions of Robin Hood in my youth and have probably watched every movie or TV show made on the subject. It’s stories like these that help us—when we’re children trying to understand the world—to discover our own role in the world.

MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY by Fredrik Backman captures the wonder and joy these kinds of stories have for us. Now, I know MY GRANDMOTHER is strictly a fiction novel, there’s no fantasy, not even any unexplainable events—just so you know, because I don’t want you to read it expecting that. But I’m sure you do remember what it was like to have those fantastical stories of your youth permeate your life and shape the kind of person you want to be. This is the book that will help you re-live those days.
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Review

Senlin Ascends

Senlin Ascends

So every once in a while I’ll perform what I affectionately call a “dummy test” to check and make sure I’m not being a dummy about something in particular. I have my opinions, my habits, my modus operandi, but as the world is constantly changing I figure I had better allow myself to change along with it every once in a while as well. It’s no secret (based entirely on my most recent SPFBO review) that I thought The Grey Bastards was head and shoulders better than any of the other entries that made their way into the final ten novels in the contest. After finishing my read of ALL of them, I happened to come upon some comments that Mark Lawrence made about one of the books that hadn’t made it past the initial winnowing of the bevvy of novel hopefuls: SENLIN ASCENDS. Specifically, he said that it was, “my best read, one of my favourite books of all time in fact. So read it.” Whoa. How then, I wondered, had it not won out in round one? I tried to read the story that had taken the proverbial cake in the first round of that group of stories, THE PATH OF FLAMES (EBR review), and quit after about 65 pages. So the situation left me wondering if I was a dummy, or if perhaps I might just like Senlin Ascends. So, I decided to put my money where my mouth was–or more specifically, I guess, my money where Mark Lawrence’s mouth was–and I bought both of the currently self-published Books of Babel.
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Review

Fire Touched

Posted: March 28, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Patricia Briggs, Urban Fantasy
Fire Touched

The Fae have a chip on their collective shoulder. They’ve attempted to integrate into society, but it’s had mixed results since some Fae integrate with humans better than others (those who have a hard time are, for example, the ones who like to eat humans). Several years ago they “came out,” allowing their existence to become public knowledge. That didn’t go so well, so since then they’ve retreated to the Fae reservation in Washington state, near the Columbia Basin Pack’s territory. Now the Fae are downright testy. They’ve tortured Mercy’s friend Zee, let loose trolls to sew chaos in Tri-Cities Washington, and now want back a changeling who’s escaped Underhill.

And of course it’s up to Mercy to figure out how best to protect her own.
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Review

Assassin’s Charge

Assassin’s Charge

I am so very tired of the “tough, damaged, beautiful-but-gritty chick/superhero” fantasy trope, so one would assume this book would not thrill me. Not so, and: Lucky me! The first selection I chose to read from the 2016 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off is a winner. I will be pulling for ASSASSIN’S CHARGE, a standalone novel set in a previously explored world, and for Claire Frank. I’m hoping this book gets some attention.

Mostly taken from Amazon’s synopsis: Rhisia Sen is one of the Empire’s highest-paid assassins. Living a well-ordered life of luxury, she chooses her contracts carefully, working to amass enough wealth so she can leave her bloody trade. She is offered a new contract on the outskirts of civilization and almost refuses—until she sees the purse. It could be the last job she ever has to take. She might finally retire to a life of peaceful leisure, but when she reaches the destination she discovers her mark is a child.
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Review

Shadowed Souls

Shadowed Souls

When I saw that this anthology had a new Dresden story in it, I snatched it up quick and then found myself regretting the decision. Because, you see, I’m kind of still catching up on that freaking amazing series, and it only took reading the blurb on the back of the book to determine that this story takes place at a point in time significantly later than my current location in the series. Had the story been by anyone other than Jim Butcher, I likely would have canned the project and either handed the book off to another reviewer or not read the story before reviewing it the anthology myself. But the thing is, The Dresden books have been absolutely genius to read, and even though I like the twists and turns and revelations in that series a ton, so much of the story comes by living it through the experience of reading. And so, already somewhat spoiled, I committed to reading the Dresden story with the understanding that getting from where I am in the series to where this story takes place was still going to be awesome-sauce fantastic. Oh, and there were some other stories in this book too. Even some really good ones. 🙂
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Review

The Grey Bastards

The Grey Bastards

There are times that I grow tired of all the profanity and sexual content in books these days. I might have added violence here as well, but there is a part of me that realizes I’ve become fairly inured to it over the years, and as Dave Matthews has said, “I’m still a boy,” and boys do love to see a fight. 🙂 Still, it makes me happy to find a great book that avoids all the potentially offensive content. Now, up front, you should probably understand that this is definitely NOT one of those books. Yeesh no. Not by a long shot. But it was a story that made me think about the concept, because there was just so dang much of it. Now, I know many of you will likely be crying foul right now amidst references to all my “Books We Loved” reviews by authors like Joe Abercrombie and Sam Sykes. What I need to emphasize though is that in those cases it is the author’s ability to tell great story with great characters that I love, and rest of everything only plays second fiddle in comparison. But sometimes, one or two of those second fiddles can become kinda loud.
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Review

The Hollow Boy

Posted: March 7, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Johnathan Stroud, Horror, Middle Grade
The Hollow Boy

From Amazon: “As a massive outbreak of supernatural Visitors baffles Scotland Yard and causes protests throughout London, Lockwood & Co. continue to demonstrate their effectiveness in exterminating spirits. Anthony Lockwood is dashing, George insightful, and Lucy dynamic, while the skull in the jar utters sardonic advice from the sidelines. There is a new spirit of openness in the team now that Lockwood has shared some of his childhood secrets, and Lucy is feeling more and more as if her true home is at Portland Row. It comes as a great shock, then, when Lockwood and George introduce her to an annoyingly perky and hyper-efficient new assistant, Holly Munro.

“Meanwhile, there are reports of many new hauntings, including a house where bloody footprints are appearing, and a department store full of strange sounds and shadowy figures. But ghosts seem to be the least of Lockwood & Co.’s concerns when assassins attack during a carnival in the center of the city.”

Yep. This series just gets better and better.
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Review

Revenger

Posted: February 23, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Alastair Reynolds, Science Fiction
Revenger

So I’ve been sitting on my hands for the last five months, fairly disgruntled, that I didn’t have this story in my hands yet, because it was published in the UK last September and as part of that cycle, released in ebook/Kindle format. I’m pretty much a hard-copy only kind of guy. I don’t buy eBooks. I’ll read them. I just don’t buy them, because I so love seeing all of those bound blocks of paper sitting on my bookshelves at home. As Tracy Hickman refers to them (per my sometimes sketchy memory), the “physical reminders of the experience we found within them”. I guess I always have the option of importing hard copies, but that can get expensive fast, and for the most part I end up just shaking my head and dealing with it. Regardless, it’s always nice to get a new Alastair Reynolds book.
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Review

The Moonlight War

The Moonlight War

So a ninja, a highwayman, a witch, and a princess walk into a bar….wait, no, that’s not how it starts (my bad). So a ninja, a highwayman, a witch, and a princess decide to join a merchant caravan across terrain known to have killed experienced soldiers. Cuz adventure is out there! Or something like that.

Actually, it’s more complicated than that. The powerful Lord Myobi has decided–for reasons known only to him–to travel to a neighboring city, despite knowing that the most recent caravans have disappeared. When local merchants, desperate to reach said city with their goods, decide to join Myboi in the hopes that his elite entourage would provide the protection they need, he decides to ask the king for a caravan leader and escort. The king provides his niece, the princess Setanna, who takes charge, and must hire on cooks, muscle, and wrangle the groups into a semblance of order.
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Review

Over Your Dead Body

Posted: February 9, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Dan Wells, Horror
Over Your Dead Body

I have a confession to make. Is there a booth around here somewhere? No? Dang. Okay, so here it is: I sometimes end up relying on EBR to let me know about upcoming books by authors that I love. I know. It’s horrible. Please don’t throw tomatoes though. I’m allergic. I’m having a difficult time even approaching the possibility that I might have missed the release of a John Cleaver book. But, WHAM!, up comes our Best-Of post, and I find John Cleaver book six sitting on the list of our own “2017’s Most Anticipated”. What happened to five? I wasn’t exactly okay with that situation. So, I bought it, read it, and now I get to review it. Because apparently the review fairy is being kind this year and left me a blank space on her dance card. And also, somehow, no one else got to it before me. Praise.
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Review

Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma

Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma

Bodhmhall’s little settlement is in trouble. Established three years ago after being expelled from her clan, the settlement of Ráth Bládhma is home to a handful of misfits, simply trying to live a quiet, fulfilling life in the wilds of Ireland. But one fateful day, Bodhmall’s pregnant sister-in-law Muirne stumbles into their settlement with news of the old clan’s demise–and she carries what could be its heir. Will the competing clan come looking for her?

When Bodhmhall’s partner Liath Luachra comes across tracks in the forest, she discovers a war band in search of something…or someone. As she tracks them down to learn their number and purpose, she finds that they’re aided by a Tainted One–what happens when a druid turns to darker forces–and suddenly their plight becomes much more fraught.

***WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS*** Usually I don’t give away the story, but I feel the need to explain myself.
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Review

The Lyre Thief

Posted: February 2, 2017 by mtbikemom in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Jennifer Fallon, Fantasy
The Lyre Thief

Her Serene Highness Rakaia, Princess of Fardohnya, is off to Hythria to marry a brute of a Hythrun Warlord she’s never met and escape the inevitable bloodbath in the harem when her brother takes the throne. She is not interested in marrying anyone and has a plan to save herself if she can just convince her baseborn sister, Charisee, to play along. These two best friends/sisters, though one has been a princess and the other her handmaiden, embark on an adventure of switched identities complete with love triangles and meddlesome gods. Rakaia is rescued by none other than the demon child, R’shiel, who is on her own quest to free her beloved, Brak. Charisee first acts the part, then truly becomes the princess she was never meant to be, which draws the attention of the God of Liars, who is rightly impressed and even helpful.

…And in far off Medalon, someone has stolen the music.

Their quest for the tiny stolen lyre containing the essence of the God of Music will eventually touch all their lives, threaten everything they hold dear, and prove to be far more personal than any of them can imagine.
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Review

The Liberation

Posted: January 28, 2017 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Ian Tregillis, Alternate Historical Fiction
The Liberation

Endings are always tough when it comes to book series. For readers, for authors, and quite usually for the characters as well. They’re the showdown, the climax of everything written thus far, the point where we as readers have to say goodbye. For many, the ending is the part of the book, or series, that will determine whether you like or hate it, despite everything that has led you as a reader to the point. I’m more in the camp of “joy in the journey” than “how-does-it-end”. So, a great read that has a decent ending gets higher marks than a ho-hum read with a brilliant ending. It’s really nice though when I don’t have to make that distinction; when I get to read something that was a great series, had a great last book, and a great ending.
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Review

Martians Abroad

Posted: January 26, 2017 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Carrie Vaughn, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Martians Abroad

To Polly’s dismay, her mother–the administrator of Mars Colony–has signed up Polly and her brother Charles to the earth school Galileo Academy where the teens will rub shoulders with the progeny of the solar system’s elite. Polly and Charles were born on Mars and have lived there all their lives; but while Charles considers schooling on Earth as useful, Polly knows she’ll miss Mars and doesn’t want to give up her own plans.

Here at EBR we love us some Carrie Vaughn. We’ve reviewed several of her Kitty Norville books as well as a couple of her standalones, DISCORD’S APPLE (EBR Review) and AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE (EBR Review). Now her newest book, MARTIANS ABROAD is another standalone in the vein of Heinlein’s Young Adult books (such as CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY — EBR review) mixed with a little STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND–only our protagonist is a teenage girl.
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