Category Archives: Reviews

Tough to Read, Hard to Put Down: ATLANTA BURNS by Chuck Wendig – Review

Atlanta burns

 

Atlanta Burns (Atlanta Burns #1 & 2) by Chuck Wendig
Genre: YA Crime/Mystery
Publisher: Skyscape
Release date: January 27 2015
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 381

four and a half

The nitty-gritty: A tough read full of unhappy people, but with a glimmer of hope at the end.

“Maybe next time? I’ll bring my shotgun. It’s got a taste for the blood of monstrous men.

“You can’t go like this forever. At some point you gotta be a normal girl.”

“If you say so.”

Chuck Wendig never fails to make me feel something, which is one of the most important things a writer can do for his readers. So when I picked up Atlanta Burns, I was expecting a gritty, action-packed story of a girl who solves crimes (OK, so I latched on to the blurb that compares it to Veronica Mars), because it’s Chuck Wendig, who does gritty really well. But I was not expecting this book at all. I would have to say Atlanta Burns got me more worked up emotionally than I’ve ever been while reading a book. I nearly didn’t finish it. When I got to the end of chapter thirty-three, my first reaction was to beat my Kindle to death and swear off Chuck Wendig for good. Because he had just broken my heart.

But after turning out the light and trying to go to sleep (and not being able to), I decided I might as well finish the story. I mean, there were only a few chapters left. And boy am I glad I did. I can’t tell you what made me change my mind about the book, because I don’t want to spoil the story. But let’s just say that glimmer of hope I mentioned up there? The door cracked open just a bit and let the light through—a murky and dim light, but light nonetheless. I finished this book wanting very badly to read the next installment.

Atlanta is a high school girl who lives in near poverty with her mother, a woman who can barely take care of herself, let alone her daughter. One day after school she inadvertently rescues a boy named Shane who is being bullied by a couple of schoolyard thugs. Before long, Atlanta is drawn into the hopeless lives of other students who are being bullied for being gay, Venezuelan, poor, etc. With her trusty shotgun and a generous supply of Adderall from her drug dealer friend Guy, Atlanta sets out to save as many lives as she can.

But when she is asked to investigate why dogs are disappearing from an affluent neighborhood, Atlanta finds herself in the middle of a dog fighting ring. Everything’s going to hell, fast, but Atlanta’s made a promise to try to shut down the Farm, and she isn’t one to give up easily.

The story takes some hot topic issues, mixes them together, and gives us a bleak and violent world, where bullying and hate crimes are the norm. Wendig comes right out and lays his issues on the table, and he doesn’t ever flinch. In case you’re wondering what the big trigger was for me, I’ll tell you, because if you’re a dog lover like me, you deserve a warning. Part of the book deals with Atlanta trying to shut down a dog fighting ring, and if there’s anything that will make me stop reading a book, it’s cruelty to animals. I knew this part was coming, but I wanted to see if I could get through it. And I did, mostly. Wendig shows us the grim realities of this terrible sport without going overboard. One of the best parts of this story is a dog called Whitey, and I’ll just leave it at that.

I’m going to tell you something you might not want to hear: none of the characters in Atlanta Burns are particularly likable. (Well, except for Atlanta’s English teacher Mrs. Lewis, who didn’t get enough page-time, in my opinion.) Otherwise, this story is populated by the following nasty and unlovable people: drug dealers; bullies; dog killers; dog thieves; teens who drink; teens who do drugs; Neo-Nazis; unfit mothers; corrupt law enforcement; and one Atlanta Burns, a teen who has recently “spent time away” because she shot the balls off her mother’s boyfriend (he was sexually abusing her). Atlanta has some serious baggage, not the least of which is her absentee mother who is in worse shape than she is. Until she meets a couple of nerdy kids who need her help—Chris, a gay teen, and Shane, a Venezuelan boy—both who have been mercilessly bullied. And I’m not talking call-you-a-faggot or stuff-dog-shit-in-your-locker bullying. This shit goes way beyond that, into the territory of physical pain.

But despite the unlikable-ness of Atlanta in the beginning of the book, she did grow on me, and I have to admit by the end I was completely in her corner. Wendig has a way of making you believe that all this could happen to one girl, in one small town. I don’t know how it happened, but I went from hating Atlanta Burns to loving it. Wendig pushed me into a pit of despair and made me claw my way out, then he showed me a glimpse of a beautiful sunset. Not bad for a book that I almost didn’t finish.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Above quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof, and may differ in the final version of the book.

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Magic in the Bones: PACIFIC FIRE by Greg van Eekhout – Review

Pacific Fire (Daniel Blackland #2) by Greg van Eekhout
Genre: Adult urban fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Release date: January 27 2015
Source: ARC from publisher
Pages: 336

five stars

The nitty-gritty: A worthy follow-up to California Bones, Pacific Fire is infused with even more magic and danger and humor.

“How’s your stealth osteomancy?” she asked.

The same sint holo that concealed objects in his bone-lined box was in his cells. A skilled osteomancer like Daniel could summon it and make himself vanish, or least make himself hard to spot.

“Not great,” he said.

“How impenetrable are you?”

“You mean like to bullets and things?”

“Yeah.”

“I am utterly penetrable,” Sam admitted.

“How about offensive magic? Kraken energy, fire breathing?”

“Not so much.”

Em shined her light on him, as if searching for some defect. “You are the Hierarch’s golem, aren’t you?”

“I don’t live up to my potential.”

If that quote made you chuckle, then you are going to love Greg van Eekhout’s series. This is the second book, and therefore this review will contain some unavoidable spoilers for the first book, California Bones. Proceed with caution if you are worried about such things!

I love so many things about this series! van Eekhout’s magical system is one of my favorites, and while there is a certain “ick” factor to osteomancy—it requires you to eat the flesh and bones of powerful magicians and magical creatures, thus absorbing the magic into your own body and making you more powerful—I’ve never read anything quite like it. Add to that the utterly original setting, characters that are full of human flaws and desires, and perfectly timed humor, and you have a *magical* combination.

Second books in series often fall into that murky “middle book” territory, but I didn’t feel that way about Pacific Fire. For one thing, we have a new character named Sam who completely stole the thunder from Daniel, the main character from California Bones. I dearly loved Sam, and I wanted the book to keep going so I could keep reading about Sam and his friend Em and their adventures.

The author takes a risk (in my opinion) by setting this story ten years after the conclusion of Pacific Fire. Daniel has left Los Angeles and is on the run after killing and eating the heart of the Hierarch, the most powerful osteomancer in California. With him is Sam, a golem created from the Hierarch who has all the power of his “father,” even though that power hasn’t yet surfaced. Daniel has sworn to protect Sam from the evil osteomancers of Los Angeles who would do anything to get their hands on him.

When the story begins, Daniel and Sam are living in a trailer on the edge of the Salton Sea, when Daniel’s friend Gabriel comes to warn them that Daniel’s uncle Otis, along with a couple of other shady and power-hungry osteomancers, are hatching a diabolical plan to bring to life a Firedrake dragon, a magical creature that has been extinct for a long time. Daniel knows he must stop the project, and so he begins to make plans to infiltrate Catalina Island, Otis’ stronghold where he plans to bring the dragon to life. But it won’t be easy, because everyone is looking for Daniel and Sam, and there are only so many places to hide. Plus, resurrecting a Firedrake? Now that takes a hella lot of magic, but if anyone can figure it out, it’s Otis.

Pacific Fire is steeped in magic, which practically oozes from the pages. Greg van Eekhout has turned Southern California into his own personal magical playground, and he gleefully shows us how wonderful that playground is. From the crazy idea of his watery canals that take the place of L.A. freeways, to unexpected creatures that roam the hills of Catalina Island, each familiar Southern California location is turned on its head and given new life. In van Eekhout’s world, Gabriel is the head of the Department of Water and Power, and is a powerful water mage who controls the water of Los Angeles. Not only can he monitor traffic on the canals and adjust it as necessary, but he draws his power from the water and knows everything that happens in the city.

As I mentioned before, I loved the character of Sam. At first it was hard to picture what he looked like, as he’s a golem and has been created from the DNA of the Hierarch, which I suppose is a lot like cloning. But he appears human, and in fact he’s a teenaged boy in this story, with all the inherent quirks of any normal teen. For one thing, he’s girl-crazy, and he tends to fall in love with every girl he meets. He has incredibly powerful magic deep inside him, but for some reason he’s unable to draw from it. When we first meet Sam, Daniel is trying to teach him how to use his magic so he’ll be ready to defend himself when the bad guys come calling—and don’t worry, they will! But poor Sam, he just wants to be a normal kid and live in a proper house and go to school, where he’s sure to meet girls.

On his journey to help Daniel stop the dreaded Firedrake project, Sam meets another golem named Em who joins up with him. Em is the sort of girl who looks normal on the outside, but inside she’s more like a ninja with mad fighting skills. She and Sam were adorable together, and even though I wouldn’t call their relationship romantic, you could see the potential was there.

My only complaint is that the book felt a bit on the short side. There was one scene in particular that takes place on a submarine (yes, you read that correctly!) that could have been so much more developed. Sam and Em wind up on a submarine and head to Catalina Island (and I won’t tell you how they wind up on it!), but the scene literally cuts from the moment they board to the moment they arrive on the island. I so wanted to find out what took place on the submarine trip!

But I’m still giving this book five stars, so obviously it didn’t bother me too much. The ending, oh how I wish I could tell you how Pacific Fire ends!! I didn’t know whether to scream or cry at the end, but I can tell you I am even more excited about reading book #3, Dragon Coast, which luckily comes out later this year.

California BonesFor urban fantasy fans, this series should be on your “must read” list. Laugh out loud funny and full of tense action and danger, Pacific Fire is highly recommended.

Big thanks to Tor Books for supplying a review copy! The above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book. Check back here tomorrow for my interview with Greg, and you can enter to win a copy of Pacific Fire!

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Unique & Thought Provoking: THE GHOSTS OF HEAVEN by Marcus Sedgwick – Review

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
Genre: Unable to categorize!
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release date: January 6 2015
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 336

four and a half

The nitty-gritty: A quartet of interlinked stories set in different time periods, joined together by the recurring theme of the spiral. A complex story that requires some thought and patience, with a big payoff.

How arrogant is man, Bowman has sometimes wondered, to think he can know everything about the universe while stuck to the surface of a tiny planet in a remote region of the galaxy? Yes, great things have been learned, but not everything. There is always the unknown. No matter how high you climb on the spiral staircase, there is always another turn of the stair, out of view, and that’s where the unknown lies.

The Ghosts of Heaven was one of those books that completely surprised me. I had seen lots of mixed reviews on Goodreads, and I mean mixed, folks! And so I was curious to read it for myself. This is my second Marcus Sedgwick book, and while I enjoyed the last one (She is Not Invisible), I absolutely loved The Ghosts of Heaven. Not everyone will “get” this book, and it’s not a page turner or a plot-heavy story. I’ll admit it took me until the middle to finally see where it was going, and how everything would eventually tie together. The Ghosts of Heaven will make you think about big concepts, like our place in the universe and how everything is connected. It’s a philosophical piece that asks some tantalizing questions about our existence, and it does so by traveling through time and space. It requires a patient reader, and if you are that person, I guarantee you will love this book.

The story is divided into four “quarters,” and each one has its own set of characters and takes place during a different period in time. In his introduction, Sedgwick explains that the quarters can be read in any order, and the story will still make sense. Being the slightly OCD person that I am, I started at the beginning and proceeded in the normal way, reading the stories in order. I found this to work extremely well, and I urge you to do the same. The last story, in my opinion, is the linchpin of the bunch, and brings together elements from the previous three stories. All four revolved around the theme of spirals, and the way they appear in nature and art, over and over again. Briefly, here is a breakdown of the four stories:

Whispers in the Dark. This story in verse describes an ancient tribe of people who use cave art to communicate and “do magic.” A young girl hopes that she will be chosen to be “the one who will go to the caves” and make the magic on the cave walls, magic that will ensure successful hunting. The girl is chosen, but not for the reason she wants. As she travels through the forest, she notices the beautiful spirals found in nature, like a snail’s shell and the tender leaves of a fern. This is a harrowing story full of danger and explores the beginnings of written communication.

The Witch in the Water. A minister comes to a small town and sets out to wreak havoc on the innocent people who live there. A young girl, who makes medicines from the plants in the forest, is accused of witchcraft after the visiting minister convinces the townspeople that she is evil. This was an unsettling story with slowly mounting tension, as one by one, the villagers start to believe that she is a witch.

The Easiest Room in Hell. This was my second favorite tale, and it’s told through journal entries by a man named Doctor James, who has just come to work at the Orient Point Lunatic Asylum. There he meets an inmate named Charles Dexter, a man who appears sane on the outside, but is actually irrationally terrified of anything spiral-shaped, including the massive spiral staircase at the center of the asylum. James bonds with Dexter and is convinced he can help him recover, but the evil Doctor Phillips has other ideas. Sedgwick’s asylum is surrounded by the sea, which gives this story a Gothic feel. He uses foreshadowing to great effect, and the format reminded me of Dracula. This was a sad and chilling tale, and Sedgwick cleverly drops in clues from the previous two stories.

The Song of Destiny. Definitely my favorite, the last story jumps to the future, as a spaceship of five hundred sleeping people hurtles toward a planet called New Earth, a journey that will take one hundred years. Keir Bowman is a “sentinel” on the ship, one of ten people who are tasked with waking up every ten years to make sure all is in order. This was the scariest of the bunch, as we soon discover a terrifying mystery that Bowman must solve during his waking hours.

Each story feels completely different from the others; and yet somehow, it all makes sense when you’re finished reading. Over and over, Sedgwick uses the spiral as a way to unite the characters together, and ultimately, as a way to explain life itself:

“You can never make it back to where you began, you can only ever climb another turn of the spiral stair. Forever.”

I do have one complaint—or rather it’s something I’m puzzled by—and that is I don’t understand why this book is being marketed as young adult (according to Amazon, it’s for ages 12 and up). Most of the characters are adults, and the thoughtfully complex themes seem more suited for adult readers. I’ve been running across more and more “young adult” books that seem to be mislabeled, and I’d love to find out the reasoning behind some of these marketing decisions. I think by being labeled “young adult” The Ghosts of Heaven will miss out on a more appreciative audience.

This is a special book, something unique that won’t appeal to every reader. But for those who enjoy puzzles and coincidences, this is a beautifully written story that will give you chills as you read the last lines.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. The above quotes were taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

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Want to win a copy of The Ghosts of Heaven? Check back in February for my Book Review Giveaway!

 

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Blog Tour: TUNNEL VISION by Susan Adrian – Review + Giveaway!

Welcome to my stop on the Tunnel Vision Blog Tour! You can read my review below, and don’t forget to check out the giveaway at the end of the post (U.S. and Canada only this time). First, here’s what this book is about:

Tunnel Vision

Jake Lukin just turned 18. He’s decent at tennis and Halo, and waiting to hear on his app to Stanford. But he’s also being followed by a creep with a gun, and there’s a DARPA agent waiting in his bedroom. His secret is blown.

When Jake holds a personal object, like a pet rock or a ring, he has the ability to “tunnel” into the owner. He can sense where they are, like a human GPS, and can see, hear, and feel what they do. It’s an ability the government would do anything to possess: a perfect surveillance unit who could locate fugitives, spies, or terrorists with a single touch.

Jake promised his dad he’d never tell anyone about his ability. But his dad died two years ago, and Jake slipped. If he doesn’t agree to help the government, his mother and sister may be in danger. Suddenly he’s juggling high school, tennis tryouts, flirting with Rachel Watkins, and work as a government asset, complete with 24-hour bodyguards.

Forced to lie to his friends and family, and then to choose whether to give up everything for their safety, Jake hopes the good he’s doing—finding kidnap victims and hostages, and tracking down terrorists—is worth it. But he starts to suspect the good guys may not be so good after all. With Rachel’s help, Jake has to try to escape both good guys and bad guys and find a way to live his own life instead of tunneling through others.

four stars

The nitty-gritty: An addictive and exciting story with lots of mysteries to solve, government conspiracies, and just a touch of romance.

We’re in the parking lot of a park. There are trees everywhere: cottonwoods, aspens, oaks, all in full green leaf, the grass bright. The air is hot and still. It smells like summer.

The last time I was outside, it was the dead of winter. I breathe, deep.

This. Oh God, this. I can’t go underground again.

I didn’t know much about this story before I read it. In fact, this was one of those books where I completely forgot to read the blurb first, so for that reason the plot surprised and delighted me. Tunnel Vision isn’t without its faults, however. This story requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief, and that was my main stumbling block as I was reading it. However, Jake’s voice and the imaginative idea of “tunneling” kept me flipping pages as fast as I could. For a young adult novel, the protagonist is older than normal, so keep that in mind if you are a teen reader or someone who recommends books to teens. Jake is eighteen, a senior in high school, and is about to go off to college. His language is salty to say the least, so if F-bombs aren’t your thing, this might not be the right story for you.

However, I love that this story will most likely appeal to male readers in particular, and as a parent of a teen boy who is a very reluctant and picky reader, more stories like Tunnel Vision are sorely needed. Jake is a happy but driven senior whose biggest challenges are trying hard to get into Stanford and finding the courage to talk to Rachel, the girl he has a crush on. Jake has an unusual ability to clearly see the exact location of anyone in the world, as long as he is holding a personal object of that person in his hand. He calls his ability “tunneling,” and he’s kept it mostly a secret for his entire life.

But one night at a party, Jake gets drunk and unintentionally reveals his talent to everyone in the room. Unbeknownst to him, one of the girls at the party is a spy, and before long, Jake notices an odd car that seems to be following him. Soon after, he finds himself a virtual prisoner at a secret underground facility called DARPA, where he is put through a variety of tests to see how far his ability can go. The mysterious Dr. Liesel Miller and Eric Proctor convince Jake that he is “doing good” by using his tunneling ability to locate missing persons, hostages, and even suspected terrorists.

But it isn’t long before Jake realizes everyone is lying to him, and he sets out to discover the truth about DARPA’s real intentions. What follows is a thrilling adventure story full of intrigue and danger, and at the heart of it all, a boy’s search to get back the life he’s lost.

Adrian’s idea of tunneling isn’t necessarily original, but she’s taken the idea of holding an object and psychically gleaning information from it and flipped it on its ass. Just think about the things you could do with this ability, both good and bad. At first, Jake feels good about helping hostage victims or finding lost children, but he’s also made to tunnel into people like terrorists or children being forced to make bombs. The thought is that the outcome of being able to locate these people is a good thing, as his captors continue to remind him. I loved the double-edge sword that is Jake’s tunneling ability. He constantly struggles throughout the story about whether he’s doing the right thing, and luckily there is never a clear answer to his dilemma.

One of my favorite characters was Jake’s sister Myka, a super-smart twelve-year-old who goes to a special school for genius kids. Since their father died two years ago in a plane crash, Jake and Myka have become extremely close, and Jake has a special connection with her that relates to his tunneling. I loved Myka’s endearing combination of spunk and vulnerability. She loves her family above all else and is fiercely loyal to them. I also adored Jake’s Russian grandpa who he calls “Dedushka.” He’s got some secrets of his own and is one of the few people Jake can trust. I’m dying to tell you more about him, but I don’t want to spoil the story!

There’s a romance between Jake and a girl at school named Rachel, but it’s almost more of an afterthought. Rachel’s character wasn’t developed enough for my tastes, and she’s more or less relegated to the stereotypical “girl friend” role. Honestly, I would have loved the story even if she hadn’t been part of it.

My “suspension of disbelief” issue lies in the overly dramatic reactions of the DARPA characters, who treat Jake as if he is the country’s biggest secret asset, and they will do anything to keep him under their control. I get that his tunneling ability could be potentially dangerous if he were to get nabbed by the wrong people. But when the guns and handcuffs came out, I had a hard time believing such things would happen to an eighteen-year-old. Another thing that sort of bothered me was that through Jake, we get to peek into the minds of the people he’s seeing, but we’re never told anything else about them. Why is a woman handcuffed to a chair and being threatened with a knife? And whatever happened to her after that? We’re merely observers for a brief moment, and I wanted more information on these mysterious people.

But don’t let this deter you from reading Tunnel Vision. Some of my reactions to the dramatic parts of the book could be age-related, but for teen readers, this book is one hell of a ride. Adrian knows how to combine action and excitement with a wonderfully genuine family dynamic, all in one page-turner of a story.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof, and may differ in the final version of the book.

Find Tunnel Vision:

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About the author:

susan adrianSusan Adrian is a 4th-generation Californian who somehow stumbled into living in Montana. As a child she danced in a ballet company and read plays dramatically to blackberry bushes. Later she got a degree in English from the University of California Davis and worked in the fields of exotic pet-sitting, clothes-schlepping, and bookstore management. She’s settled in, mostly, as a scientific editor. When she’s not hanging out with her husband and daughter, she keeps busy researching spy stuff, learning Russian, traveling, and writing more books. Tunnel Vision is her first novel.

Find Susan:  Author Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr |Blog

Want to win your own copy of Tunnel Vision? Simply fill out the Rafflecopter below. This giveaway is sponsored by the publisher, and therefore is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. Good luck!

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Beware the Obscura: SHUTTER by Courtney Alameda – Review

Shutter 3D

Shutter by Courtney Alameda
Genre: Young adult horror
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release date: February 3 2015
Source: ARC from Comic Con
Pages: 384

five stars

The nitty-gritty: An unexpectedly addictive story, with a multi-genre feel that’s got something for everyone. An amazing page-turner that shouldn’t be missed!

When I opened my eyes, I stared up at the ribs of the Golden Gate Bridge. Large, toothy holes were busted into the deck, and chunks of concrete dangled from rebar sinews. Graffiti covered the bridge tower. Dripping water pealed like death knells and the whole structure creaked, its bones fracturing. The sky overhead had the livid darkness of dead flesh, of twilight dying.

While I adore the cover of Shutter, it doesn’t really tell you the whole story. If you’ve heard that Shutter is a frightening horror story, well yes, it is that. But it’s a whole lot more. Mix together Ghost Busters and City of Bones, add a healthy dollop of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and you have an approximation of the Shutter reading experience. Alameda is a writer to watch, because not only is her prose really good, but she knows how to write an exciting page-turner. I knew when I started reading that Shutter was a stand-alone, but the more I got to know the characters and the world, the more I wanted it to actually turn out to be a series! Imagine how sad I was at the end when everything wrapped up, no dangling threads or cliffhangers to be found.

When I say “multi-genre,” I mean that it’s a combination of horror, urban fantasy, paranormal, and a bit of a romance as well. It also had the feel of a superhero story, since in Alameda’s world, ghosts and other “necros” as she calls her undead, are a part of everyday life, and it’s up to the Helsing Corps—a military-like group of “reapers”—to keep the rest of humanity safe. Micheline Helsing—and yes, you guessed it, she’s a descendent of Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing—is part of the Corps, and is a tetrachromat, someone who can see the different colored auras of ghosts and other undead creatures. Micheline’s special weapon against the undead is her DSLR camera, which she uses to “trap” the ghosts’ energy, in effect, killing them.

She’s aided by her crew, including Jude, a boy who can see someone’s death when he touches them; Oliver, a computer hacker and technical whiz; and Ryder, a reaper from the wrong side of the tracks who Micheline just happens to be in love with. Together they are usually an unbeatable team. But one night, something goes wrong when Micheline is trying to capture a ghost on film, and the entire crew becomes infected with a “soulchain,” a supernatural curse that will kill the infected in seven days unless the chain is broken. With a deadly deadline hanging over their heads, it’s a race to find and kill the ghost for good.

There were so many layers to this story, I almost don’t know where to begin. I guess I’ll talk about the world building first, which I found fascinating. Alameda takes the fictional tale of Dracula and turns it into fact, thus establishing a hierarchy of ghost hunters that descend from the Van Helsings, the Stokers, and other well-known family names from classic horror literature. Add to that the idea that Micheline is nearly the last of the Helsing line, and her father expects her to marry well and continue the family name, in order to preserve her abilities in future generations. Her childhood friend Ryder is not at all what Micheline’s father has in mind, and I loved the Romeo and Juliet romance between the two of them (although that romance does not overwhelm the story at all).

One of my favorite elements was the use of mirrors, and “antimirrors,” which separate our world from the world of the dead, which is literally on the other side of the mirror. Ghosts that are trapped in the Obscura, as this terrible place is called, cannot cross over into the land of the living unless the mirror is broken, and so the reapers take great care in protecting antimirrors. The world of the Obscura is similar to ours, yet dark and decrepit, and I loved Alameda’s descriptions of it.

The author also gives a plausible explanation for how a ghost’s energy can be captured on film. Her descriptions were technical enough that I completely bought into the concept, even though most of the techy stuff went over my head. Some reviewers claim that this idea is similar to that of a video game called Fatal Frame, but not being a gamer myself, I can’t say whether that’s true or not.

The action was nearly non-stop, and the story was so tense in places that I honestly could not stop reading. The entire thing takes place over the course of four days and nights, while the chapter titles count down the hours like a ticking clock. Alameda sets her story in San Francisco, and creates a fictional island where the Helsing Corps lives and trains as part of their duties. There was a very exciting escape scene when the gang is trying to get off the island, but I won’t tell you any more than that so as not to spoil the story for you!

In addition to all the action, Shutter has a surprising amount of emotional moments between the characters, which is just another one of those layers I mentioned earlier. Micheline and her father have a very tense relationship, and in the beginning I couldn’t stand him. But as the story goes on, we get a glimpse into the past and the reasons Leonard Helsing is so angry at Micheline. This particular back story was emotionally fraught and gave what could have been merely an exciting action story much more depth.

I don’t know what Courtney Alameda is working on next, or whether or not she intends to delve back into this compelling world, but I sure hope she does. I didn’t even touch on all the wonderfully drawn characters in Shutter, but trust me when I say I want to know more about each one, and I definitely want to spend more time with them. If you’re looking for your next addictive read, then folks, you’ve just found it. Highly recommended!

Big thanks to Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan for supplying a review copy. Quote above was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

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Snark & the Supernatural: OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS by Kristi Charish – Review

Owl 3D

Owl and the Japanese Circus (The Adventures of Owl #1)
by Kristi Charish
Genre: Adult urban fantasy
Publisher: Pocket Star Books/Simon & Schuster
Release date: January 13 2015
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 432

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A rip-roaring adventure story, an audacious heroine with a knack for getting into trouble, a little romance, and lots of supernatural creatures to keep things interesting.

“Have you learned your lesson yet, Ms. Hiboux?”  The pressure decreased on my chest and I gasped in sweet air.

Mr. Kurosawa stood below me, flashing his black tiger teeth and waiting for an answer.

The smart answer was yes, but I think by now we’ve established my character flaws.

“Fuck you,” I said.

I requested Owl and the Japanese Circus after reading some glowing reviews, and I’m so happy I did. What a fun story, and a great introduction to a sometimes off-putting but ultimately likeable main character. This is one hell of an action tale, filled with a large and colorful cast of characters, some human but most supernatural in origin. At the center of it all is Owl, a talented antiquities thief with a penchant for Corona beer and online video games. The story is told in first person from Owl’s point of view, which means the reader gets to be in the head of one of the most unique female characters I’ve come across in quite some time. The story is set on several continents, which makes the story even more exciting. Charish takes your typical supernatural creatures—vampires, dragons, and more—and gives them new twists, which to me made the story much more than just another urban fantasy.

The story gets complicated, as more and more characters join the fray, but the simplified version is this: Owl has recently procured an artifact for a Japanese gentleman named Mr. Kurosawa, who runs a Las Vegas casino called The Japanese Circus. But Mr. Kurosawa isn’t happy. Something is missing from the “egg” Owl stole for him, and Mr. Kurosawa wants her to find it. Owl cuts a deal with him that she will indeed find the missing scroll that is supposed to be inside the egg, if he will protect her from a group of murderous vampires she calls the “Paris boys.”

Owl immediately sets off for Tokyo to ask her friend Nadya for help, and that’s where her troubles begin. From that point on, it’s a race to find the scroll before one of the many supernatural denizens, who are also after the scroll, kill her first. Also helping Owl is Rynn, a hottie who Owl has a dubious romantic history with, as well as her trusty Egyptian Mau cat named Captain, who can smell a vampire a mile away. But Owl’s mission seems nearly impossible, as vampires, skin walkers, and other dangerous beasties do everything they can to stop Owl and her friends before they can find the scroll.

The pace of this story was practically non-stop. Owl reminded me of a female Indiana Jones (and many other bloggers have said the same thing), a woman with sometimes unbelievable physical skills who is well versed in ancient artifacts and makes her living stealing them for wealthy collectors. She’s on the run through most of the story, as she seems to have pissed off many people in her line of work, who all seem to be after her for one reason or another. I loved the cosmopolitan feel of the story, as Owl travels from Las Vegas to Tokyo to Bali and back, and always with her cat Captain in tow.  Some of the most exciting scenes were those that took place in Bali, in the underground catacombs where Owl is searching for the scroll. Charish’s attention to detail made these scenes feel authentic, and even though I knew she was adding her own supernatural elements to the details, I could easily imagine Owl running through dark tunnels, trying to escape vampires and snake monsters!

And speaking of Owl…I have to admit her personality grated on me for most of the book, and I often found her very difficult to like. She swears like a sailor, drinks Corona beer like it’s the last drink on the planet, and always seems to be pissed at someone. Owl is one of those people who leaps first and asks questions later, which lands her in a whole heap of trouble. It didn’t surprise me that over half the characters in this book are trying to kill her. She has a hard time trusting anyone, especially her sort-of love interest Rynn, and she never knows when to keep her mouth shut. And yet, there was something about her that I did end up liking, despite her flaws. She was definitely unique, and I honestly can’t wait to see what kind of trouble she gets into next.

In her spare time (and it was hard to believe she even had any!), Owl is a dedicated gamer who is deeply entrenched in an online game called World Quest. She regularly takes breaks from her real life to become Byzantine Thief, her online avatar, where she and another player named Carpe Diem search for treasure and try to avoid magical curses. I loved this story-line, and after some revealing information at the end of the book, I’m looking forward to her relationship with Carpe in the next installment.

I do have a few small quibbles, but nothing major enough to ruin the story for me. First, I had a hard time visualizing the “egg” and the scrolls that were supposed to fit inside it. I couldn’t imagine how a scroll could fit inside an egg, and so unfortunately, every time it was mentioned it pulled me out of the story while I puzzled the logistics of it. Also, some of the writing felt a bit unpolished, and several awkward sentences jumped out at me, but these could easily be attributed to Owl’s “rough around the edges” personality, since she’s telling the story.

Overall, Owl and the Japanese Circus was a blast to read. If you like your characters snarky and sarcastic, you’re going to love Owl. I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading the sequel, Owl and the City of Angels!

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Quote above was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

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The Devil Made Me Read It: HELLHOLE by Gina Damico – Review

Hellhole 3D

Hellhole by Gina Damico
Genre: Young adult horror/humor
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release date: January 6 2015
Source: e-ARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 352

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A hilarious, laugh-out-loud “deal with the devil” story that was a blast to read!

“Please call me Burg,” he said with a smile, his beard widening. It wasn’t a well-trimmed beard, but rather the feral, unkempt kind that resulted from a weeklong bender, with Cheetos debris sprinkled throughout. His forehead was tall, his brow cavemanlike. His hair probably had things living in it. And his horns, while white and polished and slightly iridescent, ended in ragged, cracked tips.

In short, he didn’t look like the devil. He looked like the kind of early forties, thrice-divorced alcoholic who owned a grungy car wash and had to become a sperm donor to pay rent.

Before I can begin my review, I have to indulge in a small rant. I was approved for Hellhole on NetGalley, and as sometimes happens, the Kindle version of the book was not available. This meant that I had to dust off my ancient, circa-2010 Nook Color in order to read it. The reason I switched to Kindle a couple of years ago was so that I didn’t have to use my Nook Color, which at the best of times is unreliable and at the worst is downright evil. But I was determined to read Hellhole, and so I struggled with a reader that freezes every fifty pages or so and has to be rebooted a couple of times before I can keep reading. I nearly gave up, but Hellhole was so entertaining, and I really did want to find out how it ended. I guess it’s appropriate then, since Hellhole is the story of a devil, that I was put through some devilish frustration in order to finish it. That alone proves that Damico’s latest is well worth struggling with—errr, reading.

And now that that’s out of my system, on to the review! This was my first Gina Damico book, as I have not yet read her Croaked series. I have, however, been following her blog for a couple of years, and I adore her sarcastic and well-timed humor. Hellhole is just like her blog, except there’s a really good story to go along with all the funny moments.

Max Kilgore is a seventeen-year-old self-deprecating geek who lives in the town of Eastville (or “E’ville” for short!) and loves paleontology. His mother has chronic heart failure and spends her days in bed, waiting for the donor heart that could save her life. Max takes care of his mom, goes to school, and works overtime at the Gas Bag convenience store. But one night, after stealing a sparkly bobble-head cat from the Gas Bag as a gift to his mom, Max inadvertently unleashes a devil, who appears in his basement and refuses to leave until Max finds a house for him to live in.

Burgundy Cluttermuck, or “Burg” for short, is an unkempt devil with a penchant for junk food who refuses to wear pants. And he’s here to stay, unless Max can find him a house with a hot tub. Max agrees to the task, but only on the condition that Burg will “fix” his mom’s heart. But you know how deals with the devil turn out, and this story is no exception. With his new friend Lore to help him navigate the murky waters of trying to get rid of a devil, Max sets out to find a suitable house for Burg.

Aside from the humor, I loved the characters of Max and Lore, who are not your typical perfectly beautiful and talented YA characters. Both are flawed in the best ways, and for that reason they will resonate with both male and female readers. At seventeen, Max has never had a girlfriend, and his first tentative steps into romance are sweet and awkward. Lore is a sarcastic gem who turns out to be much smarter than Max, has birthmarks all over her face, and has hair that “looks like a volcano.” But she’s beautiful to Max, and that’s the important part. She works in a craft store called Just Glue It and wields a crow bar that she’s named “Russell Crowbar,” complete with glued-on googly eyes. Lore has some past experience with devils, as Max discovers, which makes her the perfect partner in crime (and yes, I do mean crime!) to help rid Max of his basement-dwelling problem.

I also loved over-the-top Burg, who is just about as lovable as a black widow spider. He’s got some interesting quirks, including the fact that he will only eat food that has been stolen. Burg did start to get on my nerves after a while, since he has a terrible habit of singing TV commercial jingles and using charming phrases like “screw the pooch.”  But I supposed that’s the point of a devil, to drive a person crazy!

Damico uses cats in an unusual way, and Max’s cat Ruckus plays an important part in beating the devil. I also loved a twist near the end that has to do with Max’s mom—but I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Damico fills her story with lots of clever twists and turns, and of course, the snappy and very funny dialogue that keeps this story humming. Teens, especially those that don’t easily fit in with the popular crowd, will surely connect with Max and Lore. Lots of fun and heartfelt too, Hellhole is a must read.

Believe it or not, no Nook Colors were destroyed during the writing of this review.

Big thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, for supplying a review copy! Above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

And thanks to Audible.com, I have a taste of the audiobook for you! I know lots of you love audiobooks, so please enjoy this clip from Hellhole:

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Humorous Writing with Confusing Action: SEVERANCE by Chris Bucholz – Review

Severance 3D

Severance by Chris Bucholz
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Publisher: Apex Books
Release date: November 2014
Source: e-book from publisher
Pages: 324

 three stars

The nitty-gritty:  A fascinating premise for a story, lots of laugh-out-loud moments, but ultimately a meandering plot that failed to hold my attention.

The trolley continued on its way, though by now Stein wished she had simply just gone up to the garden well and walked. The trolley seemed to bring out the worst in people, a symptom of mass transit systems which had survived the trip to the stars. A mass transit system within a mass transit system: Russian nesting dolls stuffed with awful, awful people.

I so wanted to love this book. Apex Books has published some wonderful stories, and I’m always eager to read new Apex titles. And the cover alone for Severance made me want to dive in, I mean just look at it! But somewhere along the way, I lost interest in the story, and I have to say it was difficult to read this one to the end.  I’m having a hard time pinpointing exactly why it didn’t work for me. Bucholz certainly has solid writing skills, and I especially loved his hysterical dialogue and the inner thoughts of his supremely funny characters. The plot had the potential to be great: a Generation ship called the Argos, hurtling through space for the past 239 years, will soon reach its destination planet, Tau Prius. But there is a plot afoot to derail this plan, which may send thousands of people to their deaths. It’s up to maintenance worker Laura Stein and her rag-tag group of friends to stop it.

It seems like an exciting and action-packed plot, and I kept waiting for the exciting part to come, but the story felt as if it were stuck on a big ship with nowhere to go, just like the people on the Argos. Stein (as she is referred to) works in the maintenance department, and her main job on the Argos is to…fix and replace heat thermostats on the ship. OK, so not the sexiest job on the planet—erm, ship—but I had high hopes that Bucholz would perhaps gloss over the details of fixing thermostats. But no, the reader gets many pages of Stein and Bruce moving about the deteriorating ship, searching for broken thermostats and replacing them. This goes on for quite some time, until the action gets going about half way through the story, when Stein discovers a group of dissenters on board who are trying to separate part of the ship.

Even then, I found the action repetitive, as though the characters were running in circles and repeating the same actions over and over. A non-violent first half (the only weapons around are stun guns, which can knock you unconscious but don’t kill) morphs into a very violent second half, as civil war breaks out, with the two sides fighting for control of the ship. I found myself unmoved by everything that was happening, for some reason, perhaps because I didn’t connect with any of the characters.

Laura Stein is the type of take-charge kind of female character I normally love, but I think the opening scene of the book—Stein sneaking through a heating duct and then spraying urine into someone’s bedroom for a prank—put me off her character, and I never did warm up to her. Bucholz delights in all types of bodily fluid humor, and he even invents a “Vomit Club,” a group of bored people who get together and try to make each other vomit. Hey, I’m not making this up, folks! Reading about people who go around the ship marking their territory by pissing on things is bad enough, but the Vomit Club pushed me over the edge. All of this is delivered with what must be Bucholz’s unique brand of humor, and while I did enjoy much of the snarky dialogue and funny quips between characters, the potty humor just wasn’t my thing.

The story goes back and forth between the present and the past, where we see an ancestor of Stein’s who has uncovered the very plot against the ship that is unfolding in the present, as he tries to figure out a way to send a warning message into the future. I loved the idea of using genetics to accomplish this task, but it was never really explained very well, and in the end, I found the whole idea more confusing than interesting.

What I did enjoy was Bucholtz’s clever set-up of a future society of thousands of people who are trapped together and really have nowhere to go. Good jobs are few and far between, and those who can’t find a job join groups (like the aforementioned Vomit Club, among others). Drugs are readily available, and Bruce often uses one called Brash, a cool red pill that gives a person unreasonable courage in the face of danger. Many story details made me chuckle, including the ship’s “fake” homeless residents—the Fauxmless—so called because while there really isn’t any reason to be homeless on a space ship, the Fauxmless think it’s trendy. And although weird, I also enjoyed the idea of the potted meat plants that grew throughout the ship. (Yes, as in chunks of meat that grow on plants!)

Bucholz’s writing is spot on—he’s clearly a seasoned writer, as his job as a humor writer at Cracked.com proves. Severance is filled with often brilliantly funny parts, but for me they just couldn’t hold the story together. But do check out the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, where lots of readers really enjoyed this book.

Thanks to Apex Books for supplying a review copy.

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Bloodydamn Good: GOLDEN SON by Pierce Brown – Reivew

Golden Son 3D

Golden Son (Red Rising Trilogy #2) by Pierce Brown
Genre: Adult science fiction
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: January 6 2015
Source: ARC from publisher
Pages: 464

five stars

The nitty-gritty: Bigger, bloodier, and bolder, Golden Son lives up to its predecessor in spades.

To my left and right, the falling soldiers look like raging lightning bugs jerked out of some Carver’s fantasy. I admire the one to my left. The bronze sun is behind him as he falls, silhouetting him, immortalizing him in that singular moment—one I know I shall never forget—so that he looks like a Miltonian angel falling with wrath and glory. His exoskeleton sheds its friction armor, as Lucifer might have shed the fetters of heaven, feathers of flame peeling off, fluttering behind. Then a missile slashes the sky and high-grade explosives christen him mortal once again.

**Mild spoilers ahead, only for those who haven’t read Red Rising.

Pierce Brown has done it again. After blowing me away with his debut, Red Rising, he’s brought back his larger-than-life, over-the-top characters and put them in even more danger and horrible situations, and still somehow managed to bring moments of quiet and beauty to his story. Golden Son was a non-stop rocket ship ride through space (literally!) that paused only long enough for our characters to recover from their wounds. If you are the type of reader who loves military fiction, then you will most likely love this series. Strangely, I am not that kind of reader, and yet Brown’s books work splendidly for me. If it’s even possible, Golden Son delves even further into the violence and depravity of the human heart than Red Rising did. There’s a lot of killing in this book, and not all of it makes sense. (In fact, I would have to say most of it doesn’t, just like war.)

What Pierce Brown does to reel me in, though, is this: he fills his story with beautiful writing; lets his characters see past the blood and destruction to the beauty that lies underneath it all; and gives them something to believe in, a reason behind all the fighting and killing. He also gives us lovely relationships between the characters and makes them more than just killing machines. (Because honestly, sometimes that’s how I thought of Darrow and his friends.) Much of the tension in the story lies in the things that are not said between characters: meaningful glances, tacit understands, and dawning realizations. These relationships are subtle and complex and ever-changing, and they are the reason I love this series.

I don’t want to spoil the story by talking too much about the plot, but I will set up the premise of Golden Son. Several years after the ending of Red Rising, Darrow has been taken in by Augustus, the man who killed his wife, and the man Darrow has sworn to defeat. But politics are complicated in this very dense story, and after several betrayals, Darrow’s mission becomes clear: to bring down the Sovereign, the woman who rules over the solar system, who keeps the Reds down in the muck as the lowest of the Colors. Darrow, who was born a Red but changed into a Gold in order to infiltrate and defeat them from the inside, gathers his most trusted friends from the Institute and forms a plan that will ultimately free all the other colors from servitude.

But things are not always as they seem. Friends become enemies, enemies become friends, alliances are made and broken, and only one thing is certain: you never know who to trust. And in order to be truly free, Darrow is going to have to start a war.

This is one of those stories where I can honestly say I never knew what was coming. Brown knows how to convince the reader that the story is going in a certain direction, and then he blithely pulls the rug out from under you. Just when you come to love a character, someone who seems to be allied with Darrow and his mission, that character either switches sides or proves to have never been on Darrow’s side at all! The result of this was that I became wary every time a character seemed worthy enough to be deemed a “good guy,” and so I found my expectations shifting.

One big difference this time around was the setting. Where Red Rising takes place mainly in a fairly small area, Golden Son expands into space. This book had much more of a science fiction feel to it, which I loved. Brown’s combination of futuristic weapons and space ships alongside characters whose dialog felt very much medieval at times, was an odd but strangely appealing contrast. My favorite weapon was the razor, a lethal sword-like contraption that is both flexible and rigid, depending on how you use it. I think more blood was spilled by razors than by all other weapons combined!

Some new characters make an appearance, and old ones return. One of my favorites was Ragnar, a “Stained” Obsidian who pledges to stand by Darrow no matter what. He was such a huge brute of a guy, and even Darrow was afraid of him at times, but I loved his steadfast loyalty. Darrow’s sort-of love interest Mustang returns, and I adored her in this book. Mustang has got to be one of my all-time favorite female characters. She’s brave, strong, loyal, and a really good liar. Plus she doesn’t take shit from Darrow or anyone else, which I appreciated.

The Howlers were some of my favorite characters in Red Rising, and they come back just in the nick of time to rescue Darrow from one of his many close calls. They reminded me of Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men, although I’ll say this for the Howlers (and all the other characters in Golden Son): don’t get too attached, because just like Game of Thrones, you never know who is going to get the ax next.

Brown throws in some humorous moments between characters, but they are few and far between. This is mostly a serious book about war and its consequences and how war changes relationships. In Golden Son, war is a solitary thing, no matter how big your army. As Darrow says to his comrades right before the final battle, “I’ll see you on the other side.”

Oh, and did I mention the huge, shocking cliff-hanger? Oh just kill me now, Pierce!! When did you say Morning Star (Book Three) is coming out?

Huge thanks to Del Rey for supplying a review copy! Above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

Read my review of Red Rising!

Read my review of Red Rising!

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WAR STORIES: NEW MILITARY SCIENCE FICTION Edited by Jaym Gates & Andrew Liptak – Review

war stories 3d

War Stories: New Military Science Fiction edited by Jaym Gates & Andrew Liptak
Genre: Adult science fiction anthology
Publisher: Apex Books
Release date: October 2014
Source: Finished paperback from publisher
Pages: 360

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A diverse and well-written collection that gets to the heart of what it means to go to war.

I always look forward to reading short story collections from Apex Books, and I’m thrilled to report that I enjoyed this one immensely. I don’t normally seek out books about combat and the military, but I was interested to see how adding a science fiction angle would affect the way I view stories about war. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Although I didn’t love every story, I did enjoy most of them, and flat-out loved four of them. I was also surprised to find that the ones I loved the most were written by unfamiliar-to-me authors.

Editors Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak did an amazing job of pulling together just the right combination of hard military, horror, and more reflective and emotional stories. The collection begins with a Nebula Award-winning short story by Joe Haldeman called Graves, which is eerily gruesome, a story that made me want to look away but compelled me to keep reading. It sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the collection, telling the story of a man who worked in Graves Registration in Vietnam, and the nightmares he suffers twenty years later after seeing a very unusual body.

The anthology is broken into four parts: Wartime Systems, Combat, Armored Force and Aftermath. There are twenty-three stories in War Stories, and for the sake of time and space, I am going to share with you my top eight favorites. That isn’t to say that the others aren’t good—they are. But sometimes you have to pick you favorites, and this is one of those times!

War Dog by Mike Barretta. This was my very favorite of the bunch! It’s a beautiful and sad story about a retired soldier who falls in love with a Dog, a genetically modified human. Set in a post-war Christian-ruled society, humans are threatened by fungal infected humans called “‘shrooms.” I loved Barretta’s writing, and I loved the way he captured the sadness and inevitability of war.

Suits by James Sutter. Wow, I loved this one too! Two innocent android “techs,” whose job it is to repair the huge suits worn in combat (think Avatar), get a harsh lesson in exactly what happens in war. This story was touching and emotional.

Ghost Girl by Rich Larson. A war vet tries to save a “ghost girl”—an albino—who lives with a robot who she claims is her dead father. It was brutal and sad and brilliantly written.

The Radio by Susan Jane Bigelow. A “synthetic” soldier is stranded after her unit is destroyed by a bomb and the Army appears to have forgotten about her. But some local residents take her in and give her hope for a new life. Sweet and moving.

The Wasp Keepers by Mark Jacobsen. In a post-war society, citizens are watched by mechanical wasps, who take brutal action at the smallest infraction. This story makes you think about the meaning of the word “freedom” and how it means different things to different people.

Invincible by Jay Posey. I wasn’t surprised how much I enjoyed this, since I’m a huge fan of Jay’s novels. In this story, a group of fighters are given new life every time they die. It explores the consequences of never actually dying, and the feelings of despair from a war that feels never-ending.

Light and Shadow by Linda Nagata. I loved this story! In a future war, soldiers wear special skull caps that block emotions in order to make them better in combat. But one soldier decides she doesn’t want to live her life without anger, and so she stops wearing her cap. Like many of these stories, this one explores human rights and how little freedom we really have.

Mission. Suit. Self. by Jake Kerr. I really enjoyed this story about a soldier who learns the hard way the meaning of the word “mission” when he decides to go against orders to keep a village from being destroyed.

Other stories in the collection are: In the Loop by Ken Liu; Contractual Obligation by James L. Cambias; Non-Standard Deviation by Richard Dansky; All You Need by Mike Sizemore; The Valkyrie by Maurice Broaddus; One Million Lira by Thoraiya Dyer; Warhosts by Yoon Ha Lee; In Loco by Carlos Orsi; Coming Home by Janine Spendlove; Where We Would End a War by F. Brett Cox; Black Butterfly by T.C. McCarthy; Always the Stars and the Void Between by Nerine Dorman; Enemy States by Karin Lowachee; and War 3.01 by Keith Brooke.

It’s also worth noting that this book was a crowd-funded project, as all 357 backers’ names are listed at the end!

If you love military fiction, you’ll love this anthology. And even if you don’t, you’ll love this anthology! War is not going away anytime soon (and won’t in the future either, according to these writers), and War Stories is a reminder of that. Each story will entertain you, but will also make you think and reflect about our sometimes tenuous relationships with other nations and races.

Big thanks to Apex Books for supplying a review copy!

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