Archive | Fiction

Monica Valentinelli

The Magician King Review

Posted on August 2, 2011 by

The Magician King is a novel penned by author Lev Grossman that follows after the events of The Magicians. Before I go any further, I want to point out two things: first, you may want to read my The Magicians review or our preview of The Magicians to help you recall the plot. Second? If you haven’t read the first book, I’m not certain you’ll enjoy this one as much, for reasons which I’ll get into shortly.

As I mentioned above, The Magician King takes place after the events of The Magicians. Because of that, fair warning: I feel there is no possible way I can write this review without spoiling something for someone… So be kind to the reviewer. Please.

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Flames

Summer Knight (Dresden Files Book 4) Review

Posted on August 1, 2011 by

In Summer Knight, Harry is dealing with the after effects of Susan leaving. He spends day and night trying to find a cure for her vampirism. To no avail. Anger and depression are the mainstays of his life now. He doesn’t eat. He doesn’t bathe. He doesn’t see any of his friends, whom are really worried for him. Harry has isolated himself in a manner that is hardly healthy.

After meeting his friend Billy (and surviving both simultaneous attack from both a ghoul and a drive by shooting), Harry finds out that Billy has set up an appointment for him. Harry goes and meets the client, to find out that is is Mab, Queen of the Winter Court. She asks him to find out whom killed a man named Ronald Reuel. She also tells him that she now his purchased debt to Lenanasidhe, and she is willing to cancel the debt…after he does three favors for her. This is the first one and Harry really doesn’t have much of a choice. You do NOT say no, to the Queen of Air and Darkness, so therefore he is now the emissary for Winter.

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Flames

Grave Peril (Dresden Files Book 3) Review

Posted on July 22, 2011 by

Again, I am trying not to spoil too much. But some things have to be said.

Grave Peril starts with a new character. Michael Carpenter, Knight of the Cross. For some reason the ghosts of Chicago have been going crazy for the last few weeks, and Harry and Michael have been running all over the place trying stop them. Michael is a great addition to this serious, because he brings a character that faith driven. Oh, and he has the holy sword Amoracchius, which was created by one of the nails that was used to crucify Jesus. Awesome.

Combined with plots dealing with Harry’s fairy godmother (Leanansidhe of the Winter Court of Fae), and ramifications of his actions in Storm Front with a Red Court Vampire named Bianca…this is the book that starts to move the serious toward being a great one. Harry and Murphy’s relationship was better after Fool Moon. Still not great, but better. Even to the point where with a few other CPD members, they took down a seriously twisted sorcerer named Leonid Kravos. So things are better.

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Monica Valentinelli

Shadow Chase Fiction Review

Posted on July 20, 2011 by

Shadow Chase is an urban fantasy novel written by Seressia Glass. While this book follows the events of Shadow Blade in the author’s series, I felt the story — which dives deep into Egyptian mythology — stands on its own.

Glass writes believable characters that we can all relate to by focusing on their internal struggles. I really liked reading about the emotional impact of the “things gone wrong.” When someone dies? We feel it. When Kira, the main character, makes a mistake? We experience her guilt. By focusing on what makes these characters human, in spite of their supernatural powers, I feel the author takes some risks because we don’t always see the “cost” of magic in our world. However, these risks are what makes the story and its characters more believable, because those emotions help us identify with them — regardless of their ethnic or cultural background.

Kira Solomon is a Shadowchaser. Although she’s human, she serves the Light and dispatches the Fallen. Although a lot of the worldbuilding was inspired by Egyptian mythology, the battle between good and evil takes center stage.

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alanajoli

The Snow Queen’s Shadow Fiction Review

Posted on July 19, 2011 by

How do I start a review of the final book in a series that I love, which had me sobbing for about three chapters of the conclusion? As it turns out, by avoiding the issue:

I feel sorry for Prince Armand.

There, I said it. Three kick-butt heroines of the whole series and this review starts off with some compassion for the guy who is always first in line to get cursed, kidnapped, and just generally gets the short end of the deal. In a series about princesses who don’t need to be rescued, someone else has to be — and once again, nice-guy prince Armand (who seems reasonably capable) suffers some of the very first consequences to evil becoming a threat in the kingdom of Lorindar.

This time, the threat starts close to home, with Snow White, who has been set up for this kind of fall from the beginning of the series, overstretches her magical abilities and ends up releasing a demon from her mother’s magic mirror. Worse, the demon corrupts Snow herself, meaning that our three heroines are no longer on the same team.

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Flames

Fool Moon (Dresden Files Book 2) Review

Posted on July 18, 2011 by

I am going to try to keep these as spoiler free as I can, but some things you just have to talk about.

Fool Moon is the second installment of the Dresden Files. As much as I love this series as a whole, this is my least favorite book. That doesn’t mean I do not still like and enjoy it, but you have like something the least, right?

One of the things I like about these novels is that he does a good job of having more than one theme in regards to the story. The theme of this book is a few things. One, werewolves have come to Chicago, and
two, Harry’s relationship with Karin Murphy. After Storm Front, you know they have a tenuous working relationship.

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Monica Valentinelli

Hellboy: Oddest Jobs Review

Posted on July 15, 2011 by

Hellboy: Oddest Jobs is an anthology edited by Christopher Golden and illustrated by Mike Mignola. The collection isn’t like other anthologies, for this one steers toward the category of “collectible.” You want this anthology to sit on your self to show-off to your friends.

As a collector of all things Hellboy myself, I picked up this anthology for two reasons: one, it was Hellboy and two, I knew that Christopher Golden’s involvement would ensure that the stories would have a certain quality to them.

I wasn’t disappointed. Although I didn’t like each and every story in the collection, there’s a broad range of tales and storytelling styles from authors I’ve read and authors I haven’t. Each plot stands on its own, however, and offers something new for fans of this franchise. I really appreciated A Room of One’s Own by China Mieville and Jiving with Shadows and Dragons and Long, Black Trains by Joe R. Lansdale.

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alanajoli

Touch of Frost Fiction Review

Posted on July 13, 2011 by

Gwen Frost, a gypsy, doesn’t know where she fits in, and she doesn’t really want to. She came to Mythos Academy after the death of her mother — for which she blames herself — and doesn’t understand what she’s doing there. She’s no warrior, and her gift of psychometry, the ability to read emotions and history off of objects, mainly helps her find lost things. She doesn’t really believe in the Pantheon or the Reapers, and she’s got no interest in fighting those battles even if they are real.

But then Queen Bee Jasmine gets brutally murdered in the library, where Gwen works, and everything changes. Unwilling to let Jasmine’s death go unmourned — when not even Jasmine’s friends seem to feel grief at her murder — Gwen is determined to discover the identity of Jasmine’s killer. And in the meantime, she ends up finding out a lot about what it is that brought her to Mythos Academy in the first place.

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Flames

Dresden Files: Storm Front Review

Posted on July 7, 2011 by

As most people know, Ghost Story (Dresden Files, No. 13) is coming out this month, and I love these books so much that I always re-read them all before the next one comes out. I have read Storm Front probably about 8 times or so now, but I always get excited when I start them over. Of course I am a bit of a Dresden fanboy at this point.

But to get to go back and see where Harry started (and for Jim Butcher as well) out is always fun for me.

Harry is a Wizard. The only one listed in the Chicago phone book. This may seem like it would be difficult, because it is. Most people cannot take him seriously, since they do not believe in the supernatural. It goes with the territory and he takes that with a grain of salt…most of the time.

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Monica Valentinelli

The Third Bear Fiction Review

Posted on July 6, 2011 by

The Third Bear is a collection of fourteen stories penned by Jeff Vandermeer. The tales ranging from folklore to absurdist; each story offers a different, sometimes surreal, take on a genre. In short, the collection was penned by a “master writer.”

It’s hard not to be a little envious of Vandermeer’s writing, for each story has the kind of quality most writers dream about. These stories belong in a school curriculum to be pored over, obsessed about, and analyzed. By far, my favorite was the signature story — The Third Bear. When I read it, I imagined I was sitting in a pub somewhere with a tall pint of ale, listening to an old, grizzled guy tell this folktale as a warning to curious travelers.

That style of writing is what I feel will draw even the most casual reader into this book. Often, you’ll find that there isn’t just one, but two stories written in each and every tale.

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Flames

A Feast for Crows Fiction Review

Posted on June 29, 2011 by

It has been years since I read the first three novels of this series, and since the series came out on HBO…I decided to re-read them and this was the first time I actually read the fourth book. One of the hardest things that Martin has been able to do was write from so many different perspectives. I think people underestimate how difficult
that can be. So when you pick up this book you are ready to see what has happened after the craziness of the ending of Storm of Swords.

Wow, if you are someone that needs continuity, you are in trouble here. Not only do you not get the characters you are normally used to reading, but you get characters you have never even heard of before. Mainly due to the fact that they are called “The Prophet” or “The Princess in the Tower”.

Right off that bat you don’t even who these people are. This wasn’t a horrible thing, it just was confusing to all of a sudden get perspectives that you have not gotten at all in the first three novels.

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Monica Valentinelli

The Golden Key Fiction Review

Posted on June 28, 2011 by

The Golden Key is a dark fantasy epic romance that was written as a three-way collaboration between Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliot. The book, which clocks in at eight hundred and eighty-nine pages, spans hundreds of years in a duchy called “Tira Virte.” The sequel, dubbed The Diviner, is due out this August.

I called The Golden Key an epic romance, but I feel that might be a little misleading. So, before I go any further, let me explain why I put it into that category. At the heart of this novel, is the tortured relationship between two characters: Sario Grijalva and the cousin he adores, Saavedra. He loves her; she does not love him. Well, at least not in that way. She does love and care for him, but her heart belongs to someone else. The passion Saavedra feels for (and shares with) Alejandro becomes the catalyst for Sario’s demise. In many ways, Sario has tortured himself for a love that may (or may not) never be consummated.

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Perdition’s Daughter: a Dime Novel Review

Posted on June 21, 2011 by

Deadlands, the very name speaks of dark tidings and sinister shenanigans. For those unfamiliar to the setting, Deadlands is an Old West role-playing game that was initially released in the mid-90’s. It met with quite a bit of success and has recently been re-released employing the Savage Worlds system. Both games were written excellently by Shane Lacy Hensley and I was quite happy to see my beloved game in print once more. With Deadlands, Shane transports us to the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood where he mixes it liberally with horror. He then throws in dashes of Steampunk and science-fiction to make it one of the best genre spanning settings. It can be dark, irreverent, gritty, and surreal all in the same session without a pause.

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Billzilla

The Gaki and Other Hungry Spirits Review

Posted on June 20, 2011 by

Being an aficionado of folklore, I was intrigued by the title of this collection, The Gaki and Other Hungry Spirits, which refers to “hungry ghosts” of Japanese legend. While the stories themselves are decidedly Western in nature, they are no less interesting. A number of the tales do feature hungry spirits, so points to Mr. Rainey for holding to his theme.

This collection starts off with the title story, “The Gaki” in which we have a tale of a man searching for something to fill his life. He finds intrigue at a clandestine gathering of people by the Copper River, and what follows will lead him down a path he never knew existed. Ultimately, he finds what he seeks, but it isn’t what he expected, and it requires a high level of devotion from him in exchange.

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Scenes from the Second Storey Review

Posted on May 23, 2011 by

Each story in this anthology was based on a particular song by the band God’s Machine, and in particular the album Scenes from the Second Storey. Being utterly unfamiliar with either I was at a loss to see how each work coincided with it’s assigned song. I simply read each story as it was presented.

My interest was heightened when I discovered that the writers were either from Australia, or near that region. As I read I picked up subtle differences between ‘American’ writing and that of their homeland, I am sure this affected my expectations within each tale and my eventual opinion. I delighted in this look at another part of the world and how they write and construct a story. Several of these authors interested me enough that I wrote their names down for my next visit to a bookstore; though it appears that most do short stories I hope to find their other works.

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Hiram Grange and the Chosen One Review

Posted on May 12, 2011 by

Hiram Grange is a bizarro-world James Bond. So far described as an “extremely ugly” man with “piercing blue eyes and a hawkish nose,” a man that nevertheless “moves with a deadly grace,” Grange can give picture-perfect, shaken-not-stirred Bond a run for his money. Hiram has a way with the ladies and has repeatedly saved the world, despite his predilection for alcohol (particularly absinthe, though Bushmills Irish Whiskey plays a large role in Chosen One). Oh, and he also has an unhealthy obsession with Jodie Foster.

In Chosen One, Kevin Lucia brings to light a different side of Hiram, one less encumbered by his vices and more concerned about saving the girl and the world.

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Steven Dawes

Hell House Novel Review

Posted on April 22, 2011 by

Good evening… and welcome to another episode of “Horror Masterpiece Theatre”. I am your host Steven Dawes. As some of you may know, I’ve always found ghost stories to be entertaining and interesting. I find them so interesting in fact that was a co-founder and the general manager of local ghost hunting group for a few years. While I’ve since retired my ghost hunting days, I still enjoy a ghostly tale or three. And it was here where my unexpected visit to “Hell House” began.

Over the last few semesters at my school, a fellow student (who by night is known as “Craig”) has been in several of the same classes I’ve attended. As fate would have it, we were partnered up for a project together last semester, and as we worked on our project we got to know each other and discovered our mutual appreciation for the paranormal.

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Billzilla

Harlan County Horrors Review

Posted on April 21, 2011 by

Harlan County Horrors, edited by Mari Adkins, is billed as an anthology of regionally-inspired tales. With Harlan County being in the heart of coal country, one might expect a number of the tales to touch on aspects of mining, and that assumption is correct. However, there’s more to Harlan than the mines; for one thing there’s the people themselves, and where there are people, scary stories are sure to follow. These twelve stories are a showcase for tales of Kentucky coal country by a fine crop of writers, many of them with close ties to the state.

The lead story, “The Power of Moonlight” by Debbie Kuhn is a bitter lesson about a woman scorned and the folly of rash acts. It was a very good selection to kick off the anthology. Maurice Broaddus’ “Trouble Among the Yearlings” is a subtle tale that captures well the claustrophobia of being trapped in a mine. In “Spirit Fire”, Robbie Sparks weaves a tale that warns about making a deal that seems too good to be true.

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Monica Valentinelli

Review of Shadowheart by Tad Williams

Posted on April 15, 2011 by

There are books, and then there are books. Shadowheart, the fourth and final volume of the Shadowmarch series by Tad Williams, is one such tome. You may recall my review of Shadowplay, my review of Shadowrise and our publication of the Shadowrise preview. It seems like only yesterday when I started reading this series about feuding families, ancient legends, bizarre cultures, extraordinary creatures and colorful characters. Shadowheart brings it all to a close in an unusual way.

Why unusual? Well, first and foremost, the series was originally supposed to be three books — not four. After reading Shadowheart, I can see why Williams needed a whole ‘nother 722 pages to explore this story. Or should I say…stories?

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Matt-M-McElroy

Lobster Johnson: The Satan Factory Review

Posted on April 6, 2011 by

Lobster Johnson is a character from the Hellboy mythos. He is a crime fighter and masked vigilante with a team of loyal sidekicks? assistants? that help him take out mobsters, villains and other assorted scum. The Satan Factory is a pulp novel about The Lobster’s battle against a failed mob doctor named Jonas Chapel who stumbled into some very dark magic.

I enjoyed all of the appearances of Lobster Johnson in the Hellboy comics I’ve come across, so I was especially pleased to see this novel on the shelf at the store and scooped it up right away. I was wondering how well the character would translate from comic to fiction, and I wasn’t sure if the character could carry a book by himself (with no Hellboy trash talking in the pages). My concern was not needed, Sniegoski delivered a great story with some great characters.

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11 Tales of Ghostly Horror

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