Review: Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke ColeShadow Ops: Breach Zone on 2014-01-28
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began “coming up Latent,” developing terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Those who Manifest must choose: become a sheepdog who protects the flock or a wolf who devours it... In the wake of a bloody battle at Forward Operating Base Frontier and a scandalous presidential impeachment, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, call sign “Harlequin,” becomes a national hero and a pariah to the military that is the only family he’s ever known. In the fight for Latent equality, Oscar Britton is positioned to lead a rebellion in exile, but a powerful rival beats him to the punch: Scylla, a walking weapon who will stop at nothing to end the human-sanctioned apartheid against her kind. When Scylla’s inhuman forces invade New York City, the Supernatural Operations Corps are the only soldiers equipped to prevent a massacre. In order to redeem himself with the military, Harlequin will be forced to face off with this havoc-wreaking woman from his past, warped by her power into something evil...

The entire Shadow Ops series is like looking through a spider’s eye. (I suppose this makes the author the dark carnivore at the center of the web… Sorry for that metaphor, Myke.) Every glimpse we get into this world shows us a slightly different facet. With every piece, we get another view of the same story, views that make us re-evaluate what we thought we were sure of before.

In Control Point, we had Oscar Britton’s story. A soldier who screwed up in his efforts to do right and was punished severely for it. In that book, Harlequin is the bad guy, along with the rest of the government.

In Fortress Frontier, we meet Bookbinder and see the whole situation from another perspective. The government is maybe a little corrupt, but it’s still made of people. More people screwing up what they were trying to do right. The goblins and Scylla are the bad guys here.

Then we get to Breach Zone, and we get to see that the Big Bad of the series (And can I just say what a thrill it is that the Big Bad is a *woman*?) is also just a person who messed up while trying to do the right thing. It’s noted in the text that even the goblins fighting are doing so because they want to make sure that they get LEFT ALONE in their own world.

The author said at one point that this book is, at its heart, a romance story. And to that, I say, “Ehhhh. Sorta.” Some people do, after all, consider Romeo and Juliet a romantic tale. I think those people are kind of nutballs, myself, but I do have to admit that there’s an element of romance there. I think both stories are, however, more about the consequences of backing people into a corner.

R & J would have loved each other for all of about two weeks and then gotten over it if they’d been allowed to get it out of their system. Harlequin wouldn’t have been forced to choose between his duty and his government. Scylla wouldn’t have needed to run or hide or murder an ass-load of people. They were all trying to make their best choices with the tools that they had — and they were all, without exception, both completely right and UTTERLY WRONG.

I think the moral of the story is that there are never any good choices. There are only the best choices we can make at the time. We never know all the consequences for our actions. That doesn’t mean we should never make any, just that we should weigh them carefully and be prepared to deal with any fallout.

I believe most of us think of our nation’s soldiers as Brave and Good. We also tend to think of our government (no matter which side you’re on) as Corrupt and Sometimes-Evil. So how is it possible for our soldiers to always be Brave and Good when being directed by a power that is Corrupt and Sometimes-Evil? The polarity of that, the struggle of it, is something I saw repeated again and again throughout this series. I don’t think Cole intended to give us an answer (and I don’t believe that he does) but I think that this series forces us to see that there are at least two sides (and probably more) to any story.

It makes me see that those Brave and Good soldiers and our Corrupt and Sometimes-Evil government can do both Good Things and Bad Things — sometimes both at the same time. Multi-faceted. Spider’s eyes. Seeing through them is both wonderful and disconcerting.

Thinking about this story through the context of the author’s biography is fascinating. Myke Cole has experience with the armed forces, is an officer of the Coast Guard, and is someone who does work with the NYPD… To take this story and filter it through that lens is part of what, for me, made this story fun. So yes, I think this book is definitely a love story. But I don’t think Harlequin and Scylla are it. I think this is a story of the love between a man, a soldier, and his country, his home city. And for that I think it’s just beautiful.

You guys, these books are so well written. Everything I know about the military I picked up watching NCIS, but even I didn’t get stuck on the soldier-speak (and O, the acronyms!) (There’s a glossary in the back if you get stuck.) Every time you think you have the line in the sand drawn and you know where the story is going, Cole turns it on its head. I was a little miffed at first when the story didn’t keep following Oscar after Control Point, but I have to admit that the author’s method was completely sound. The fact that Cole can write this well AND shoot a rifle just doesn’t seem fair.

four-stars

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway! Stone Cold by Devon Monk

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour Review & Giveaway! Stone Cold by Devon MonkStone Cold on 2014-04-01
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
Goodreads
five-stars
The latest Broken Magic novel from national bestselling author Devon Monk. Marked by Life and Death magic, Shame Flynn and Terric Conley are “breakers”—those who can use magic to its full extent. Most of the time, they can barely stand each other, but they know they have to work together to defeat a common enemy—rogue magic user Eli Collins. Backed by the government, Eli is trying to use magic as a weapon by carving spells into the flesh of innocents and turning them into brainless walking bombs. To stop him, Shame and Terric will need to call on their magic, even as it threatens to consume them—because the price they must pay to wield Life and Death could change the very fate of the world...and magic itself.

I don’t know what to tell you except I loved this book. Okay, so I’m still a little bit traumatized by That Thing that happened in the first book, which, if it could have been overcome or maybe not happened so that Shame could’ve had a happier ending, I would have loved. I know I’m being vague, but we’re talking Major Spoiler for the first book, so deal with it. I realize that it wouldn’t fit in with Shame’s character for him to have a *truly* happy ending, but oh, man… Did I want that for him. I really did.

As much as I love Shame, Zayvion is still my favorite character in this world. I don’t think that will ever change. I just needed to say that. I mean Shame is bitter & snarky (which I love) but Zayvion is tall, dark, Zen, and snarky which just pings all my buttons. (Hello, let me introduce you to my husband…)

I honestly don’t know what else to tell you about this book that’s not a super-powered spoiler. This is only a duology, but honestly it wouldn’t make sense for me to urge you to read these if you haven’t read the Allie Beckstrom series. (WHICH YOU SHOULD ALSO READ.)

Basically, this was one of those rare books that made me resent absolutely everything that interfered with reading it: work, sleep, eating, showering, using the bathroom. I finished it in two nights and even that took too long because I had to Know! I was unhappy with one of the elements in the ending, but even I have to admit that the book ended just where it should have. Just because I wanted it to happen doesn’t mean that it was a good idea for the story. I find it fascinating that Devon Monk can do that. That ending was absolutely perfect and yet completely agonizing and I hate it and I love it and… and…

If there is ever an opportunity to hear Devon Monk teach about writing I will figure out a way to fly cross-country to do it. And the people who know that my first and last plane flight gave me anxiety dreams for six solid months know what it means to me that I would say that. (Note for the curious: it’s not the flying that gets me, it’s the airports. ::shudder:: Seriously. I never worried about the plane having problems, but having my ticket? Getting through security? Oh, yes! Basically, flying alone is the worst thing that can happen to someone with anxiety, in my opinion.)

The writing here is tense and flawless and I’m both envious and deliriously thrilled by that. If you haven’t read Devon Monk, we might need to seriously reconsider our friendship. Think about that.

Seriously though… Do you like that “dropped into the middle of a strange world with weird magic rules that haven’t been explained yet” feeling that you get from Sanderson’s Way of Kings? Then you will feel right at home here. Fans of the series shouldn’t need me to tell them to read it. This is a fabulous, and fitting, end to Shame and Terric’s story.

For those of you who sat through all that, we now have something special for you. Enter to win one of two copies of Stone Cold for your very own.

What: One of two print copies of Devon Monk’s Stone Cold.

When: Beginning at 8a.m. EDT on March 31st and ending approximately midnight on Monday, April 7th (Sunday night/Monday morning). End time subject to change without notice.

Who: Anyone with a valid US or Canada mailing address.

Details: You must be willing to share your email address for the contest and your mailing address if you win. Your information will be used by me for those purposes only. As prizes will be mailed by the publisher, you also agree to share your mailing address with them. As such, Waiting for Fairies cannot be held responsible for the shipping or arrival of prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

five-stars

Review: Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck WendigUnder the Empyrean Sky on July 30, 2013
Pages: 354
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
Corn is king in the Heartland, and Cael McAvoy has had enough of it. It's the only crop the Empyrean government allows the people of the Heartland to grow ? and the genetically modified strain is so aggressive that it takes everything the Heartlanders have just to control it. As captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, Cael and his crew sail their rickety ship over the corn day after day, scavenging for valuables, trying to earn much-needed ace notes for their families. But Cael's tired of surviving life on the ground while the Empyrean elite drift by above in their extravagant sky flotillas. He's sick of the mayor's son besting Cael's crew in the scavenging game. And he's worried about losing Gwennie ? his first mate and the love of his life ? forever when their government-chosen spouses are revealed. But most of all, Cael is angry ? angry that their lot in life will never get better and that his father doesn't seem upset about any of it. Cael's ready to make his own luck . . . even if it means bringing down the wrath of the Empyrean elite and changing life in the Heartland forever.

This book foretells the near-future dystopian conclusion to our recent political history: Occupy Wallstreet and the 1%, GMO food scandals, domestic government spying campaigns, and the health detriments of high fructose corn syrup. In this somewhere-in-the-future world, the richest 1% literally float high above the rest. Below, spouses are chosen by government dictate and everyone gets hitched and is expected to procreate whether they’re reproductive or heterosexually inclined or not.

The farming heartland has become filled from horizon to horizon with one crop only: a strain of corn that has carnivorous tendencies. Other crops are forbidden, and whole towns have been completely depopulated over the merest whisper of a fresh vegetable, with no trace left of where the residents may have been taken — if they were ‘taken’ anywhere at all. Cancer runs rampant through the population and a deadlier, more virulent strain of plant-like growths pop up to devastating effects.

In the midst of all this bleakness, we have a group of teenagers coming of age. Their government-chosen spouses are about to be announced and they’ll be expected to abandon any pretense they had of hope for their future in favor of factory or farm work that will without doubt one day kill them.

Our main character — for he isn’t at all a hero — is Cael. Seventeen and about to arbitrarily be declared a man, he resents his lot in life and is angry with just about everyone. Most teenagers are, but Cael has more reason than most. He’s ashamed of his father for not standing up to their bully of a mayor. He’s lost his ship and his hopes for a different livelihood to the mayor’s arrogant son. His mother is bed-ridden with tumors and cancer. His lover is most likely about to be pledged to wed another against both of their wills.

All of this is completely understandable. All of this also turns Cael into a little asshole. He is arrogant, head-strong, selfish, and focused only on the usual and generally misplaced dreams of glory and triumph of the young. He treats just about everyone, including his friends and girlfriend, badly.

But there is hope at the end of this book, even if only a glimmer. There is clear indication that there is still story left to tell, at least. To be completely honest with you, I found this story terrifying. Not because there is anything particularly horror-genre-like to be had. There is suspense, surely, and moments of tension but nothing that can be pointed to and named as the Big Bad Monster. Except, of course, when you take into account all of those things that I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Maybe I am just old and embittered, but I find this world Wendig has created not so very far fetched at all, and that scares the daylights out of me. My own fear and feelings of helplessness at the circumstances of right now, today, in the real world make this story sound more like science than science fiction. With that said, I want young people to read this. I want lots of young people to read this. I want them to read this with hope in their hearts rather than the despair I have in mine, and I want them to make better choices than we have been making.

I haven’t felt this petrified that a story might actually happen since Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. And since we actually did get NSA spying after all, I’m hoping we as a society can nip this particular narrative in the bud before we end up growing some killer corn.

Note: If you’re interested in reading this book, there’s a giveaway over on Goodreads

four-stars

Review: Hot Blooded by Amanda Carlson

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Hot Blooded by Amanda CarlsonHot Blooded on April 23, 2013
Pages: 320
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-stars
It hasn't been the best week for Jessica McClain.

Her mate has been kidnapped by a Goddess hell-bent on revenge --- but Jessica is playing for keeps.

Because she's the only female werewolf in town...it comes with its own set of rules...and powers.

Aided by two vamps, two loyal Pack members, and one very reluctant human, Jessica must rescue her man while coming to terms with what being a wolf really means.

All in a day's work for a girl.

The second novel in the Jessica McClain series is a full on action adventure featuring one angry Goddess and plenty of monsters, demons, and a few newly risen beasties...

This book kept me company a few weeks ago during a very long (2.5 hour) wait to have a flat tire repaired. The tire was fixed just fine, in case you’re wondering. I chose to read and review this book because I’d been hearing the name Amanda Carlson in my twitter feed quite frequently. Praise was coming from quarters that I generally pay attention to, and so when I came across this on NetGalley I of course requested it.

I’m not sure why I expected this to be more of a paranormal romance, since it’s marketed as an urban fantasy and has the words “action adventure” right in the blurb. I think I just see the word “mate” in a description and my brain shuts down in a sigh of cliche exhaustion. I’m so tired by books with a “fated” couple who were “meant to be together” by some otherworldly force. Ugh. Can’t people date just because they like each other? Or how about a couple who dates for awhile and then breaks up and their worlds actually don’t shatter and they go on to be perfectly happy people?

This… isn’t one of those books, but if you can overlook the cliche of “meant to be”, it’s not a bad story. Honestly, since it’s the second in a series and I haven’t read the first, I probably don’t have room to complain about the main couple. It’s possible that this aspect was addressed when Jessica and Rourke first got together. At least, for now I can hold out for that hope.

I think “action adventure” is probably the most apt term for this book. It’s Indiana Jones with an ensemble cast of vampires and werewolves and instead of Nazis we get flesh-eating bats, trolls, river nymphs, demons, and evil… goats. It’s a spun-sugar page-turner. There’s not much substance, but it’s delicious. Just beware of being left slightly sticky by the time you’re finished. …Okay, that metaphor really broke down there at the end, didn’t it?

Anyway. This book was a great way to spend a couple of hours when I didn’t have anything better to do. I doubt I’ll become a fan of the series, as I prefer to wait for those stories with the truly unique twists. This is simply a way for me to manage my own time, however, and if you need a good summer read, you won’t be wasting yours with this one.

three-stars

Review: The Red Plague Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

Review: The Red Plague Affair by Lilith SaintcrowThe Red Plague Affair on May 21, 2013
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-stars
The service of Britannia is not for the faint of heart--or conscience...

Emma Bannon, Sorceress Prime in service to Queen Victrix, has a mission: to find the doctor who has created a powerful new weapon. Her friend, the mentath Archibald Clare, is only too happy to help. It will distract him from pursuing his nemesis, and besides, Clare is not as young as he used to be. A spot of Miss Bannon's excellent hospitality and her diverting company may be just what he needs.

Unfortunately, their quarry is a fanatic, and his poisonous discovery is just as dangerous to Britannia as to Her enemies. Now a single man has set Londinium ablaze, and Clare finds himself in the middle of distressing excitement, racing against time and theory to find a cure. Miss Bannon, of course, has troubles of her own, for the Queen's Consort Alberich is ill, and Her Majesty unhappy with Bannon's loyal service. And there is still no reliable way to find a hansom when one needs it most...

The game is afoot. And the Red Plague rises.

I almost feel bad reviewing this book, because I didn’t love it nearly as much as I wanted to. I adore Bannon and Clare. I love that their relationship is a platonic love and not romantic. The parallels with all the various modern interpretations of Sherlock Holmes make me very happy. The fact that Bannon is a kick-ass damsel who is very rarely in distress (and when she is, she is most likely to get herself out of it rather than being in need of rescue) is one of my favorite things about this series.

Saintcrow’s worlds are like dream-scapes, almost familiar but not quite: Londinium, Britannia, Queen Victrix. These things are almost history, but instead serve to disorient the reader and further immerse them in a world of ephemera. The reader is set adrift in this world with only the occasional touchstone of familiarity to acclimatize themselves. This isn’t a problem for your typical fantasy reader. I’ve had plenty of practice forging ahead with a story despite not knowing what the hell is going on in all the deeper layers of the world. (I’m looking at you, Mr. Sanderson.)

Plenty of mysteries still remain: why was View Spoiler » ? What is the secret of Mikal’s past that Emma is so determined not to know? What about Ludo’s past? Or, for that matter, what exactly has led to Emma’s current dissatisfaction with her service to the Empire? I think the problem with this story in particular was that most of the mystery either happened in the past, or has yet to surface, which makes for a frustrating read.

I love the characters. I love the steampunk-fantasy amalgam of the world. It’s only that something about this particular plot was pedestrian. It feels like a stepping through of routine that we must endure to get somewhere significant but that doesn’t make much impact itself. Since a  highly viral plague gets released into the middle of Londinium in this novel, it’s rather stunning to me that this book felt so… well… boring.

I kept waiting for the emotional impact to hit but it never did. I don’t even know if I can say why it didn’t. I felt absolutely no connection to a couple of characters that I love in a world that I find fascinating with a plot involving a race against time to keep thousands of people from dying horribly.

I honestly can’t say if the problem with this book even IS a problem or if I just wasn’t in a good place to appreciate it when I read it. I am completely bewildered that I didn’t love this. That said, I won’t be abandoning this series because of said adorable characters and alluring world. I look forward to the next installment getting back on the usual exciting track.

three-stars

Review: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

Review: The Blue Blazes by Chuck WendigThe Blue Blazes on May 28th 2013
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
Meet Mookie Pearl.
Criminal underworld? He runs it.
Supernatural underworld? He hunts in it.
Nothing stops Mookie when he’s on the job.
But when his daughter takes up arms and opposes him, something’s gotta give…

The Blue Blazes – the first in a new urban fantasy series in which lovable thug Mookie Pearl must contend with the criminal underworld, the supernatural underworld, a new drug that makes the invisible visible, and a rebellious teen daughter who opposes him at every turn.

Oh, Mookie Pearl. Just an average boy living in a mafia world. One populated by creatures of the Great Below: goblins, snake-faced men, demon gods and other things that would sooner eat you than look at you.

Mookie’s got problems. He’s addicted to a (supernatural) underworld drug, his boss is ill, his daughter hates him, and he hasn’t seen his ex-wife in years. To top it all off, his boss’ grandson, heir to the (criminal) underworld throne has asked him to complete an impossible task: find the potentially mythological supernatural cure for Mafia Grandpa’s sickness. But when Mookie starts searching through both underworlds for this magic elixir, he starts to become aware of — and opposed by — other factions with their own sinister goals. Now more than his boss’ life and his daughter’s love are on the line. Now, the entirety of New York City is in jeopardy.

Let’s be honest here: Mookie Pearl is not the kind of guy you’d really want to entrust with the fate of an entire city. Oh, he’s honorable enough in his own way. If Mookie says he’s going to do something, he damn well does it. But he’s also a mafia grunt, a bruiser, a guy who maybe doesn’t enjoy killing but it certainly doesn’t seem to keep him up at night either. He’s the guy we all have nightmares of becoming. He’s the guy who made all the wrong choices in his youth: wrong job, wrong priorities, wrong people in his life.

Now he’s woken up and realized that all the things he should have spent his life fighting for are the ones he’s neglected into dust. Mookie’s whole life is rotten. It’s as filled with holes and demons and monsters as the rest of New York City, and one wrong move forward could blow the whole thing to hell, collapsing it into a big pile of rubble and blood and bodies. Extend this metaphor farther, and on bad days you can wonder if this isn’t the problem with the whole damn world.

This book kicked a big face-full of sand into my teeth and here I am days later still spitting out grit. It’s not for the faint of heart (Wendig’s books never are). While you’re looking up at that one dazzling ray of hope at the end, you’re also getting a knife in the chest. I’m not even sure yet if I even *liked* this book, but that’s not really the point. What we have here is a new flavor of urban fantasy in a genre that was starting to get a bit bland. There are interesting, full-fleshed characters whose choices drive the narrative into believable consequences. We have some interesting new monsters for a change built into an intriguing world with it’s own complete mythology.

The Blue Blazes is an iceberg kind of book. There’s so much going on under the surface (in more ways than one) that you are quite dazzled by it. And Wendig takes advantage of that bedazzlement to give you several swift kicks in the gut.

(Ed Note: Edited from original because repetitive word choice is repetitive.)

four-stars

Review: Oz Reimagined Edited by John Joseph Adams

Review: Oz Reimagined Edited by John Joseph AdamsOz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond on February 26 2013
Pages: 365
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-stars
When L. Frank Baum introduced Dorothy and friends to the American public in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz became an instant, bestselling hit. Today the whimsical tale remains a cultural phenomenon that continues to spawn wildly popular books, movies, and musicals. Now, editors John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen have brought together leading fantasy writers such as Orson Scott Card and Seanan McGuire to create the ultimate anthology for Oz fans—and, really, any reader with an appetite for richly imagined worlds.

Stories include: Seanan McGuire’s “Emeralds to Emeralds, Dst to Dust” finds Dorothy grown up, bitter, and still living in Oz. And she has a murder to solve—assuming Ozma will stop interfering with her life long enough to let her do her job. In “Blown Away,” Jane Yolen asks: What if Toto was dead and stuffed, Ozma was a circus freak, and everything you thought you knew as Oz was really right here in Kansas? “The Cobbler of Oz” by Jonathan Maberry explores a Winged Monkey with wings too small to let her fly. Her only chance to change that rests with the Silver Slippers. In Tad Williams’s futuristic “The Boy Detective of Oz,” Orlando investigates the corrupt Oz simulation of the Otherland network. Frank Baum’s son has the real experiences that his father later fictionalized in Orson Scott Card’s “Off to See the Emperor.”

Some stories are dystopian... Some are dreamlike... All are undeniably Oz.

I think I burned myself out on Oz with this. I was reading these short stories interchanged with the actual 1st Oz book by Frank Baum. I got about halfway through this collection before I had to put it down for something else. Not because I didn’t like it, but just because I was on Oz Overload (or O², if you wish).

I particularly liked Seanen McGuire’s story in this, which was the whole reason I picked up the collection. Tad William’s futuristic, cyberpunk version of Oz was also enjoyable. I’m afraid I don’t have much to say about this right now… I do plan to pick up and read the rest of the stories at some point, but since this is a NetGalley read, I need to do a review sooner rather than later.

I’ve enjoyed anthologies edited by John Joseph Adams far more than a lot of others I’ve picked up, so if you’re an Oz fan, you really can’t go wrong picking this up and giving it a try. There’s plenty here to catch your fancy: from dystopian, cyberpunk, or gritty urban fantasy types to the more traditional whimsy of the original Oz.

three-stars

Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

This is the first book in the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger, released February 5th, 2013.

The Blurb

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

e&eFourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger’s legions of fans have come to adore.

The Review

First, I want to remind you that this is a YA series. That means that this book has a totally different feel than the Parasol Protectorate series. This book lacks Alexia’s acerbic wit (I’m sure Sophronia will develop hers in time) and the more adult themes of love/sex/marriage (at least for now). Most YA series focus on the problems of becoming an adult, and Finishing School is no different. The only difference is, Sophronia will become an adult knowing how to curtsy properly, sneak appropriately, and how to poison one person specifically at a dinner party for fifty.

I also love the name Sophronia. Probably because it’s like Sephrenia and when someone asks me what my middle initial stands for, I tell them Sephrenia. (I like to be mysterious.)

It is a genuine pleasure to, in this book, see some familiar characters at younger stages in their life. You may recognize such people as Sidheag Maccon, Niall the werewolf, and Genevieve “Vivi” Lefoux. I’m still trying to figure out if we’ve seen Sophronia anywhere in the Parasol Protectorate series and we just don’t know it (or maybe I don’t remember it), but if so she wasn’t ever mentioned by her first name.

I didn’t fall in love with Sophronia the way I did with Alexia. Sophronia is missing an element of snark that I love a lot. I assume, however, that since she’s young she’ll grow into it. (I imagine that quite a lot of Victorian ladies dealt with their world with snark. I know I would.) So this book doesn’t quite rate as highly as it’s predecessor series. However, if you’d enjoy seeing a Victorian Hogwarts with steam and gears instead of magic (and on a dirigible!) then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this.

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

Review: The World Of Tomorrow Is Sadly Outdated by Leanna Renee Hieber

Review: The World Of Tomorrow Is Sadly Outdated by Leanna Renee HieberThe World of Tomorrow is Sadly Outdated on February 9, 2013
Pages: 52
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-half-stars
New York City: The Year is 1889. 
New York City: The year is 2089. 
In 1889 a group of bold pseudo-scientists discover the "temporal current" and begin to view the distant futures that await the Empire City. In the future, all life as we know it has crumbled, leaving New York City a ghost town with a populous scrabbling to survive underground. 
In the past it's up to an unlikely group of Victorian heroines and heroes to preserve something of their world to save their future generations. In the future it's up to an unlikely group of survivors to take a leap of faith; discovering what their ancestors left for them with no more guarantees than love and hope.

A new Leanna Renee Hieber book is a delicacy to be sipped. It took me so long to finish this relatively short novella. You have no idea. The time I spent reading this is in direct proportion to how much I loved it. I would read a couple of pages, usually only one of the rather short alternating points-of-view. Then I would put the book down (figuratively, as this is a digital release). Then I would chew over the scene thoughtfully, ruminating, absorbing the beautiful (as always) word choice. I would go off and read something else for a day or two, until the brass gears in my head had revolved sufficiently toward the soft ping that pulled me back into this world. Or worlds, I suppose. Even though both timelines in this novella are really one, even though this world is our world — our past and our future — they are so starkly different from each other that they may as well be completely different worlds.

And yet. (And yet.) One thread remains the same throughout. It is a bright, shining cord of striking strength and femininity. Two very different and far separate generations of daring, willful women (and yes, a few men, too) determined to save the world. Maybe not their own world, not exactly, but some semblance of a world. I finished this novella at exactly the correct time, because I needed this. I needed to grasp that silver thread and hold it fiercely in my hand, to cup it gently in my palm and whisper, “See? This is our future. Our present. Our past. These are the kinds of heroines who really lived, who are living, who will rise in days to come. These are the women we need so desperately. These are the women WE ARE.”

Imagine a world where not only *can* women save the world, but that they MUST. Buy this. Get it. Read it. Absorb it. And then go out and create that world. That is what Leanna is giving us here: a gentle pride of the past, a small hope for the future. It’s a precious gift. Don’t waste it.

four-half-stars

Review: The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination Edited by John Joseph Adams

Review: The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination Edited by John Joseph AdamsThe Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination on February 19, 2013
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
four-stars
From Victor Frankenstein to Lex Luthor, from Dr. Moreau to Dr. Doom, readers have long been fascinated by insane plans for world domination and the madmen who devise them. Typically, we see these villains through the eyes of good guys. This anthology, however, explores the world of mad scientists and evil geniuses—from their own wonderfully twisted point of view.

An all-star roster of bestselling authors—including Diana Gabaldon, Daniel Wilson, Austin Grossman, Naomi Novik, and Seanan McGuire…twenty-two great storytellers all told—have produced a fabulous assortment of stories guaranteed to provide readers with hour after hour of high-octane entertainment born of the most megalomaniacal mayhem imaginable.

Everybody loves villains. They’re bad; they always stir the pot; they’re much more fun than the good guys, even if we want to see the good guys win. Their fiendish schemes, maniacal laughter, and limitless ambition are legendary, but what lies behind those crazy eyes and wicked grins? How—and why—do they commit these nefarious deeds? And why are they so set on taking over the world?

If you've ever asked yourself any of these questions, you’re in luck: It’s finally time for the madmen’s side of the story.

Everyone knows that superheroes are boring. Villains are more interesting: more complex in their madness, more brilliant in their darkness. When the villains are also genius scientists… Well, then you have something remarkable. The authors writing for this collection go in all sorts of different directions. Some of their villains are well intentioned, others are narcissistic, some are spurred on by achievement, others by revenge. And some of them are truly, genuinely mad.

I’ve been trying to decide on a favorite story, but I don’t think that I can. They are all wonderful and unique in their own way.

  • Professor Incognito Apologizes: An Itemized List (Austin Grossman),  in which a mad scientist/villain apologizes to his girlfriend for deceiving her, is a perfect opener.
  • Father of the Groom (Harry Turtledove) seems to be the weakest in the set, telling the story of what happens when the Bridezilla’s new father in law is a mad scientist.
  • Seanan McGuire’s Laughter at the Academy is the mind-bender of the bunch.
  • Letter to the Editor (David D. Levine) is an unexpected twist.
  • Instead of a Loving Heart (Jeremiah Tolbert) is the kind of story I wish The Mad Scientist’s Daughter (see my last review) would have been.
  • The Executor (Daniel H. Wilson) is one of the best in the book, and probably the most touching.
  • The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan (Heather Lindsley) reminds us why evil geniuses should work alone. This one made me smile, and is one of my favorites.
  • Homo Perfectus (David Farland) was the most disturbing of the bunch, featuring a power-hungry, rapist CEO.
  • The narrator of Ancient Equations (LA Banks) had me rolling my eyes.
  • Alan Dean Foster’s Rural Singularity could be the best in the book and certainly has the most unique mad scientist.
  • Captain Justice Saves the Day (Genevieve Valentine) takes a refreshing approach.
  • I’d love it if The Mad Scientist’s Daughter (Theodora Goss) became a series. How cool would it be to have more stories of popular fiction’s most mad scientists’ daughters?
  • The anthology’s headliner Diana Gabaldon has the longest story in The Space Between. It’s well-written but ill-explained and wasn’t in the running for favorite.
  • Carrie Vaughn’s Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution is another story I hope we might see more of eventually.
  • Blood & Stardust (Laird Barron) was entertaining, but hard to follow at times.
  • I’d say L.E. Modesitt, Jr. has the creepiest villain — a political mad scientist — in A More Perfect Union.
  • Naomi Novik’s Rocks Fall is brief but particularly special. I found it intriguing.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal’s We Interrupt This Broadcast reminds us that she can do much more than her long form fantastical Victorian romance and do it very, very well.
  • Marjorie M. Liu gives us the interesting tale of a man dealing with the legacy of his name: Lex Luthor in The Last Dignity of Man. Disturbing, thought-provoking, and will make a tug or two on the heartstrings.
  • The Pittsburgh Technology (Jeffrey Ford) is the only one who doesn’t show us the face of the mad scientist behind the sinister plot. Not the strongest story in the bunch, but worth a read if you have the time.
  • Mofongo Knows by Grady Hendrix takes us back to pulp novels, stories of simian villains, and their inevitable conclusion. If you liked Chuck Wendig’s Dinocalypse Now, you’ll like this story.
  • I found The Food Taster’s Boy by Ben H. Winters the most thought-provoking and a good final note. It reminded me somehow of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series.

I read this book when I was sick one weekend, so all the stories have a certain surreal quality in my memory now. (This is the sick weekend that ended with me washing my face with shampoo accidentally because I was that exhausted and disoriented from being awake for what seemed like 473 hours in a row.) I received a digital ARC from Netgalley but ended up buying it anyway. Overall, I’m pretty glad I did. 

four-stars