Reviews by Vanessa

Review

Penric’s Demon

Posted: March 19, 2019 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Lois McMaster Bujold, Fantasy, Short Fiction
Penric’s Demon

PENRIC’S DEMON is the first story in a 6-novella series (so far? hopefully there will be more?) written by the amazing Lois McMaster Bujold. I just finished listening to all six on Audible and I’m here to tell you that they’re worth your time, and reader Grover Gardner enhances the story the way a reader should.Read the rest of this review »

Review

All Systems Red

Posted: February 7, 2019 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Martha Wells, Science Fiction, Short Fiction
All Systems Red

Last week in my interview with S.K. Dunstall (see it here), they mentioned loving Martha Wells’ Murderbot stories. With such high praise from an author-duo I enjoy, how could I resist?

I’ve been missing out. Murderbot is totally worth reading.
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Review

Stars Uncharted

Posted: January 29, 2019 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: S.K. Dunstall, Space Opera
Stars Uncharted

Nika Rik Terri is known as one of the best body modders (as in she modifies human bodies with her machines) in the galaxy. But even those famous for their abilities can make dumb decisions: like, say, hook up with a man who becomes an abusive boyfriend. She makes a business deal with his boss so her ex-boyfriend will leave the planet and harass other people instead. Unfortunately she ends up on the run anyway after her ex’s “co-worker” threatens Nika’s life.

Josune was recently hired as assistant engineer on the spaceship The Road to the Goberling, but she’s there to spy for her boss, the captain of the Hassim, who wants to learn something only Captain Roystan will know. But when the Hassim arrives suddenly out of nullspace with company men on board (think pirate mentality but with corporate backing) and the original crew dead, Josune suddenly finds herself in a predicament.

But neither woman is without resources or smarts, and they must use all their wits to come out of this alive.
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Review

Skyward

Skyward

Spensa has always dreamed of being a pilot. When she was a child her father was a pilot for the DDF, the military force that protects the planet Detritus from alien Krell incursions. But one fateful day during a defining battle against the Krell, her father ran from the battle, died, and was labeled a coward. As a result, Spensa and her mother and grandmother live on the fringes of society. But now that Spensa has come of age, she can test for pilot training and prove to everyone that cowardice doesn’t run in the family.

But the DDF doesn’t make it easy for her.Read the rest of this review »

Review

Scourged

Posted: January 4, 2019 by Vanessa in Books We Like...and Hate Meta: Kevin Hearne,
Scourged

SCOURGED is the final book in The Iron Druid Chronicles and we get it all: war (Ragnarok!), character growth, teamwork, comeuppance (multiple instances), and even a little romance. But how does Hearne deliver?Read the rest of this review »

Review

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel

Posted: December 11, 2018 by Vanessa in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Alyssa Palombo, , Books for Chicks
The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel

If you’ve never read the original Washington Irving short “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” you should (it’s easy to find a free version online…but be sure to have a dictionary on hand, it’s not necessarily an easy read). You’ve probably seen the silly Disney cartoon, but the original story has an ambiance and mystery about it that is enhanced by its brevity and style. Alyssa Palombo attempts to re-tell this American classic in her recent THE SPELLBOOK OF KATRINA VAN TASSEL, while retaining the setting details and characters, but giving it a modern twist.Read the rest of this review »

Review

The Empty Grave

Posted: November 22, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Johnathan Stroud, Horror, Middle Grade
The Empty Grave

Arriving at the final book of the Lockwood & Co series, THE EMPTY GRAVE, leaves me with mixed emotions: so happy to see our gang of heroes find the answers they’re looking for, but also sad to see this fantastic series come to an end. Over this series we’ve watched as Lockwood, Lucy, and George have navigated the dangerous and mystifying world of ghosts and ghost hunting. They may only be kids, but this small and independent company has uncovered secrets small and large, fought dangerous ghosts, and dealt with the frustrating politics of being the little guy in a big industry.

Now we get to see the fruition of all their hard work. THE EMPTY GRAVE ends the series in a way that won’t let you down.Read the rest of this review »

Review

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

Posted: November 13, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Brandon Sanderson, Fantasy
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

Stephen Leeds is not your average hero. He’d consider himself an normal enough guy, nothing really special to look at or know. At least until he starts talking to people no one else can see.
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Review

Empire of Sand

Posted: November 6, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Tasha Suri, Fantasy
Empire of Sand

Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of the local provincial governor, her father the official representative of the Emperor and the Emperor’s spiritual equal the Maha. While her father is powerful, her mother’s heritage, the Amrithi, are not only outcasts, but are hunted down by the Maha and his mystics. The best thing for Mehr to do is lay low and be the obedient daughter. But she isn’t yet ready to give up the dances and rites that worship the faith of her mother’s people.

Mehr and her family, including a beloved younger sister and a hostile stepmother, live near the desert where her mother’s people originate. The desert is also where the gods of this world sleep and dream, their dreams heralded by the sandstorms that blow through the city where she lives.

There is magic in those storms, and Mehr can hear it calling in her blood. When she inadvertently uses that magic for the first time, she attracts the attention of the Maha, who sends a delegation of mystics–among them a new husband.Read the rest of this review »

Review

The Fated Sky

Posted: October 16, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Mary Robinette Kowal, Science Fiction
The Fated Sky

In THE CALCULATING STARS you got to know Elma York, the brilliant mathematician who becomes one of the first lady astronauts on an Earth that must take to the stars to survive.

Now it looks like she’ll be one of the first women to Mars.Read the rest of this review »

Review

Trial By Treason

Posted: September 25, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Dave Duncan, Alternate Historical Fiction
Trial By Treason

So I’d never heard of Dave Duncan before this book showed up at my house. As the managing editor here at EBR I’m the one who gets the books and divvies them out. There used to be a time–when I first started here eight years ago–that Steve would send me stuff and I would read it because he told me to; sometimes I’d get to choose. Not anymore. I’ll admit that now it’s typical for me to read the first couple pages of everything that comes in and keep what I think looks interesting. I’ll also admit that the front cover of this book didn’t particularly grab me.

But then I read the first couple of pages. And then I read the first couple of chapters. Then I looked up Dave Duncan on the wiki and that dude has something like 40 books to his name! What dungeon have I been holed up in all these years? First I remedied it by reading TRIAL BY TREASON then I’ll continue to see what else he’s got.Read the rest of this review »

Review

The Calculating Stars

Posted: August 7, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Mary Robinette Kowal, Science Fiction
The Calculating Stars

Did you read Mary Robinette Kowal’s 2014 Hugo-winning novelette “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”? If not, you can read it here on the Tor.com website, or for time’s sake my reaction to it at the bottom of this EBR Review post. In short, it was the obvious standout winner. The main character, Elma, is a 60-something former pilot/astronaut who must make the ultimate sacrifice. But after reading that, one wonders, how did history change to make it possible for 1950s Earth to colonize Mars?

Wonder no more!
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Review

Kill the Farm Boy

Posted: July 12, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Delilah S. Dawson, Kevin Hearne, Fantasy
Kill the Farm Boy

Take every fantasy trope, every dungeon crawl, every fairytale stereotype and put them in a bag, smash the bag with a hammer, then dump out the pieces and you get KILL THE FARM BOY. It’s a romp of a book, with clever turns of phrase, goofy characters, a quest they don’t realize they’re on, all while poking fun at every fantasy book you’ve ever read. Terry Pratchett would be proud.
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Review

Terror Is Our Business

Posted: June 26, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Joe R. Lansdale, Kasey Lansdale, Horror
Terror Is Our Business

I have a confession to make. I’ve never read any Lansdale before. I know, I know. Withhold the tomatoes. I blame Steve for always taking them when I was a newbie here at EBR. Now I realize what I was missing and will quickly remedy this failing.

Because if you love horror, mysteries, thrillers…. heck, anything well written, you should be reading Lansdale.
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Review

By Fire Above

Posted: June 13, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Robyn Bennis, Steampunk
By Fire Above

Josette is the captain of the airship Mistral, and after the events of THE GUNS ABOVE (EBR review), she’s made enough of a name for herself that she doesn’t have to worry about the powers-that-be of taking her ship away from her. But the war with the Vins continues to rage, and making a name for oneself means that her and her crew are thrown once again into the fray to fight for Garnia.

But the scariest thing Josette will do is navigate the Garnian royal court.
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Review

A Secret History of Witches

Posted: June 7, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Louisa Morgan, Fantasy
A Secret History of Witches

The book begins in 1821, when a small group of Romani (gypsies) are escaping immanent death by leaving France for England. And the only reason they escape is through the efforts of the group’s matriarch and the magic she’s inherited from her witch ancestresses. The Orchiére women have used their magic for hundreds of years, the magic following their daughters from generation to generation. A SECRET HISTORY OF WITCHES follows their genealogy from 1821 to World War II, showcasing a line of vibrant women connected tightly to their family’s past and future.
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Review

The Tombs

The Tombs

Teenage Avery’s life changed the day her mother was committed to the Tombs, a ‘hospital’ for the insane. In an effort to hide their disgrace–and out of necessity as their middle-class standing is ruined–Avery and her father change their names and move to a less desirable part of town, where her father opens a clockwork shop and she begins working as a welder at a local factory. It’s not the life she lived before, where she went to school, wore nice clothes, and was friends with girls her age–and when her father didn’t drink himself into a stupor every night. But not everything is bleak. She has her peregrine “Seraphine”, best friend Khan, and welding work that she realizes she has a knack for.

Everything changes again when new abilities begin to manifest and she realizes that her mother was hospitalized for being crazy when in reality she has empathic powers.
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Review

Seventh Decimate

Posted: May 2, 2018 by Vanessa in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Stephen R. Donaldson, Fantasy
Seventh Decimate

It’s probably been fifteen years since I last read any Stephen Donaldson. It started with LORD FOUL’S BANE then the two sequels in that trilogy (which ultimately became 10 books) and, honestly, they weren’t my favorite. The main character was more anti-hero than I’d encountered before, and any reader could see that Tolkien had an influence on Donaldson’s worldbuilding. But Donaldson has a following, so I thought I’d try again with his most recent offering, SEVENTH DECIMATE, which as far as I could tell would be different than the series that introduced me to the author.

Turns out, my first impressions of Donaldson were only reinforced.
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Review

Sorcery for Beginners

Posted: April 18, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Matt Harry, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Sorcery for Beginners

Owen is your average Middle Schooler: he’s ok at sports, he passes his classes, and he has a couple friends. But when his mom leaves to work in Sumatra and dad takes him to live in Las Vegas, Owen is sure life will never be the same.

Even then, he didn’t account for finding the Codex Arcanum bookstore and buying SORCERY FOR BEGINNERS. Now his life is *really* going to change.

SORCERY FOR BEGINNERS claims it’s what the title says: that this book will teach you, via story and real-life examples, how to become a sorcerer. You’ll follow Owen’s story as he buys the book after being promised the “Spell to Rewrite History” which Owen plans to use to revert to the time before his mom left.
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Review

Seriously Hexed

Posted: March 14, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Tina Connolly, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Seriously Hexed

Cam is your typical teenager. She’s got friends, wonders how her awesome boyfriend could like such an awkward girl as her, and is frantically studying for her American History test. The only exception is that she’s a witch. However, it’s that extra complication that makes her high school years less than typical.

For example, most teenagers don’t have to deal with their mother disappearing during a coven meeting.
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Review

Burn Bright

Posted: March 6, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Patricia Briggs, Urban Fantasy
Burn Bright

Bran is out of town, leaving Charles in charge of the Marrok’s pack. But the situation is a little strange because he isn’t answering his phone when Charles calls. And he mentioned visiting Africa? Charles and Anna aren’t sure what’s going on, but they’re doing their best to hold down the fort until Bran decides to return… whenever that will be.

But they get a call from the mate of one of the “wildings”–which are unstable (usually old or traumatized) wolves that live in the Marrok’s territory, but are removed enough physically for the safety of the rest of the pack. Jonesy’s cryptic call leaves Charles concerned and confused, and with Anna decides to investigate.

They discover something much more than they expected.
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Review

Silence Fallen

Posted: February 9, 2018 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Patricia Briggs, Urban Fantasy
Silence Fallen

A master vampire of Europe, Iacopo Bonarata, is told that Mercy is the most powerful person in the territory protected by the Columbia Basin Pack.

So, of course, he kidnaps her.
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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Review

The Path of Flames

The Path of Flames

Asho was born into a race of slaves, but by sheer force of will has become the squire of the warrior Lord Kyferin, and in the opening pages of THE PATH OF FLAMES by Phil Tucker, our young hero finds himself on the field of battle. Unfortunately, his side loses, his lord is killed, and he must return home to face Lady Kyferin.

Kethe Kyferin, the daughter of the now-dead lord, wants more than anything to be a knight, even going so far as to make her own chain mail and take secret lessons from one of the castle guards. But she’s only a teenage girl, and there’s no guarantee that even though her mother is desperate for more knights, the question is if a girl will be accepted as one of them.

Tharok, a highland kragh (kinda like an orc), is on the run from the clan that wiped out his clan and killed his father. He heads deep into the mountains to make a last stand. He unexpectedly survives, and stumbles onto the remains of a kragh legend that will give him the means for his revenge.

Their worlds are about to change completely.
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Review

Confluence

Posted: December 20, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: S.K. Dunstall, Space Opera
Confluence

Here we are on book three of S.K. Dunstall’s Linesman series, CONFLUENCE. Our friends seem to be barely hanging on because now the Emperor of Lancia, Michelle’s father, has decided to assert his influence in the New Alliance, which includes marrying her off for political gain. Emperor Yu also wants his cousin, Ean’s trusty bodyguard Dominique Radko, to marry to one of Yu’s trusted (and nefarious) advisors–to Ean’s dismay. But Michelle and gang are crafty and begin their own maneuverings in order to maintain as much control of events as they can.

Unfortunately, the humans aren’t taking the sentient alien ships into account. The ships want a crew now, whether the New Alliance factions are ready to supply crews and linesmen or not. And that may mean the ships start choosing crew without input from the humans.

It feels like everything is on the verge of blowing up.
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Review

Ursula K. Le Guin Short Fiction

Posted: December 13, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Love Meta: Ursula K. Le Guin, , Short Fiction
Ursula K. Le Guin Short Fiction

These two books are beautiful. Combined, they’re over 1500 pages of short fiction by the talented Ursula K. Le Guin. I admit up front I haven’t finished them both, it’s just too much to try to get done during this holiday season (because, let’s be honest, Le Guin should be savored), but I had to let you know about them in case you’re looking for a great gift for your SF-loving friends.

THE UNREAL AND THE REAL is a collection of “best of” short stories selected by the author, old and current. THE FOUND AND THE LOST is a collection of all of Le Guin’s novellas.
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Review

Belle Chasse

Posted: December 8, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Suzanne Johnson, Urban Fantasy
Belle Chasse

I’m not sure if DJ can handle much more of this. I’m not sure I can handle much more of this. Seriously this woman needs to get her life back in order. Too bad it’s her sense of loyalty to her friends that her boss can’t seem to appreciate. Fortunately, she’s chosen well in her friends, because they may be all she has between her and those trying to kill her.

DJ has found herself on the run after the events of PIRATE’S ALLEY, her own wizard First Elder has determined her a criminal for simply wanting to protect her best friend, Eugeine. Fortunately her friend, the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, is harboring the fugitive and Eugeine at his home in Old Barataria. The result is a lot of sneaking around if DJ wants to figure out how to solve her current problem.
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Review

Seriously Shifted

Posted: November 29, 2016 by Vanessa in Books We Like Meta: Tina Connolly, Fantasy, Young Adult
Seriously Shifted

Not long ago Cam rescued potential-boyfriend Devon from being possessed by a demon, saved the town from a phoenix resurrected by her witch mother Sarmine, and was still able to pass Algebra. Such is the life of a teenage witch.

It seems that trouble continues to find her, because now her mom’s old college buddies have descended on the hapless town and decided to make a bet that involves making Cam’s friends miserable–her job is to thwart them.
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