Archive for November, 2016

skorkowsky-ibenusAbout :

A secret demon-slaying Order fights to stay underground. An internet group threatens to shatter their anonymity. A holy blade disrupts both of their agendas.

Detective Victoria Martin barely survives an encounter with demon spawn, but her career—and her partner—aren’t so lucky. Applying her detective skills to a new mystery, she obsesses over the creatures she saw…and the men who saved her from them. Her saviors belong to the Order of Valducan, which fights demons like the ones who attacked her. Allan, a leader in the Order, knows that experiences like Martin’s are all too common.

But he doesn’t bet on the detective using her technological ninja skills to seek him out and demand the truth. Adult Urban Fantasy/Horror published September 13th, 2016 by Ragnarok Publications. Authored by Seth Skorkowsky.

Thoughts :

Ibenus takes a basic premise similar to Cassandra Clare’s wildly popular Mortal Instruments series—demon slayers slaying demons, sometimes involving angels or angel-blessed swords—and distills it to pure awesome.

Ibenus revolves around its namesake, the holy blade called Ibenus and the angel that inhabits it. Which means there’s plenty of action. You can’t name a book after a holy blade without lots of demon-blasting. But without sacrificing the action, Ibenus also develops the mythology and the machinations of the Order, and it stays in close touch with the desires of each character. All of which makes me really want to go pick up Damoren right now!

This is book III in the Valducan series, so I was a little worried I’d be lost, despite assurances that this is a fine place to start. (Apparently the earlier two books focus more on individual demon-hunters and less on the Order.) But while the book starts off with a bang—very little exposition, almost all action—which could have easily made Ibenus a bewildering introduction for a straight newcomer, Victoria’s perspective actually provides an excellent vicarious recruit for readers to learn the drive-through version of the “rules.” I was able to pick up the basics of characters, background and conflict without undue difficulty.

Plus, Victoria is just pretty cool. Confident and proficient, the detective never lets disgrace stand in the way of her own personal redemption. She really fights for what she wants, which keeps things interesting, as her desires and loyalties change and she must unravel the mess she’s made of them. Her gritty arc could have become really angsty, but Skorkowsky doesn’t let the story languish in the murky depths of dethpair. Like I said…Victoria keeps things interesting.

Skorkowsky really goes there, with the character and professional conflicts, which makes for much higher stakes than a softer storyline might have produced. The conflicts involve questions of secrecy. Should the public know about the demons? Or should they be kept blissfully unaware—until they have an experience like Victoria’s, that is? The Order and Victoria’s internet group can’t seem to find any common ground on this issue, and they both make great points in favor of their arguments. The antagonist is no plot puppet; Skorkowsky develops his positions with care.

I love the atmospheric setting of the second half of the book: the Catacombs beneath the city of Paris. Just the idea of climbing down for a rave or a swim and getting swarmed by baby-faced demon spawn…yeah. Although we only really get to know one kind of demon in this book, it’s plenty creepy.

A baby’s coo came from the corner.

Something shuffled across the trash-strewn floor. Victoria’s light went to the movement, finding a pale, waxy shape the size of a bread loaf. James’s brilliant light fell upon it, revealing a chitinous insect. The creature’s face resembled a porcelain china doll, its oily black eyes completely filling the sockets. A pair of segmented pincers twitched outward from its bristle-lined hole of a mouth.

It looked up at them and a shrill infant’s sob issued from that hideous maw.”

Chitin-covered “Mantismere” demons sport pincers, saber appendages and mandibles big enough to chew your brain out through your eye. They usually don’t travel alone, either, unfortunately for the Valducan crew. They breed creepy bug drones known as “screamers” for the infant-like wails that can draw in their victims.

Ibenus—and, I’m supposing, the whole Valducan series—develops the mythology with faultless precision, covering both centuries-old historical conflicts with the church and modern conflicts such as with technological nuts who would exploit it to uncover Valducan simply for self-validation. You’ll find some great worldbuilding, here.

A few little things confused me, likely because I haven’t read books I & II, but the story stands well on its own. You could easily jump into the series, starting with Ibenus (like I did), and in fact, I strongly encourage you to do so if you’re looking for a terrific new urban fantasy series.

I have just a few small issues with the book, one being Victoria’s unfamiliarity with guns. I understand that the British CID staffs some plainclothes detectives, but that position is also supposed to require two years’ experience as a uniformed officer. It just seems crazy to me that Victoria has only shot a gun once in her life. The only other real issue I have is with the editing, which is sometimes unclear and confusing in my finished copy of the book.

But both these issues are very minor in comparison to the great fun I had reading Ibenus.

Overall :

Terrific urban fantasy. Dark and creepy, but by no means hopeless. Fine place to start in the series, with the perfect balance of action and exposition.

Recommended To :

Readers looking for creepy urban fantasy with faultless worldbuilding, constant action and well-developed characters.

****4/5 STARS


“It began with a hard, slanting rain. And soon there was fire, too, but it wasn’t fire. Not really. It was the piece of Asteroid 9918 Darwinia breaking up above Earth, flaming as they entered the atmosphere.”

Teenage brothers Chance and Patrick Rain know something is wrong when they hear screams coming from the farm next door. Their neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. McCafferty, appear possessed—with what, the Rains have no idea, and the terrified young McCafferty children don’t have any answers, either. But the problem only grows more serious.

A kind of parasitic spore is turning the adults of their rural hometown, Creek’s Cause, into—dare we use the “z” word? And the stream of spores is headed toward town. No one can stop it. The Rain brothers are determined to try, but the closer they get to adulthood, the closer they are to becoming part of the problem.

And the problem ain’t pretty. YA Sci-Fi Thriller published October 18th 2016 by Tor Teen. Gregg Hurwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of 15 thrillers.

The Rains combines the alien vs human and zombie mythos and adds in a dash of horror. Narrated in an epistolary format by Chance Rain, the book focuses on action with a strong, fast-moving plot. The rural setting is the most original aspect of the book and definitely my favorite part.

Thoughts :

Page one dumps readers into an atmospheric moment of suspense before the real fun begins, but Chance’s second entry quickly transitions to a bare-bones kind of backstory.

I should probably introduce myself at this point.”

I rolled my eyes several times at hokey lines such as,

I’m fifteen. Fifteen in Creek’s Cause isn’t like fifteen in a lot of other places. We work hard here and start young.”

The teen characters do bear out this description, though, acting much more like young adults than like teenagers. It’s actually a nice change that the Rain brothers, Patrick and Chance, get along so well. Their strong partnership and friendship lets us focus on the action, instead of angsty drama that can sometimes characterize YA.

In fact, this novel is almost all action, with quick pacing and plenty of fight.

I reached for the blackened handles sticking up out of the forge and ripped the tongs free. As Bob came at me, I raised the glowing yellow tips up to the level of his eyeholes and let Bob’s weight carry him onto them. He impaled his face on the tongs, the membranes popping, the hot metal sinking deep, winding up somewhere near the middle of his head. I clenched the tongs hard, cinching the tongs inward toward his brain.”

Isn’t there just something deliciously creepy about using hot tongs, ripped straight from the forge, to clench someone’s brain to jelly? Yes. Way creepier than slugging someone with a bullet.

In fact, the rural atmosphere—especially the perfectly realized setting of Creek’s Cause—is what make The Rains stand out. Feral sheriffs, baling hooks used as weapons and canneries repurposed as factories of death? Please and thank you.

And I love that we have ourselves some cowboy heroes! I’m a country girl, myself. The majority of the characters feel fairly “standard country mettle,” but that doesn’t bother me.

It’s the love triangle that’s kind of…awkward. I might enjoy a love triangle, if it’s done well, but this one is a little weird. Two brothers and a girl who can’t seem to decide? It’s not serious, yet, thankfully, and I’m hoping it stays a puppy love kind of thing. But at least it’s different than most YA specimens; for once, the story is not being told by the girl who can’t decide.

Besides the love triangle, I have very few complaints. I do have mixed feelings about the speculative element. The zombie transformation—while it has a clever basis—manifests too quickly to feel remotely believable.

Then a blackness crept across his eyes until they looked like two giant pupils filling the space between the lids. And then the blackness crumbled away like ash. The breeze lifted bits of black residue out of his head. The lights of the house behind him showed in those two spots.”

This happens in seconds? Eh…I dunno. But! The aliens show some promise—what we saw of them, anyway. Book I addresses the zombies; let’s hope book II develops the aliens.

The only other problem is the CLIFF HANGER! Gah! Hurry it up, Hurwitz. You can’t just leave it like that!

Overall :

Everything about this book is pretty average—except for the setting, which rocks. I am interested in seeing where book II goes with the aliens, though.

Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5
Worldbuilding: 4/5
Writing: 3/5

***3/5 STARS

Recommendations :

The book is fairly gory, but that probably won’t stop most readers who pick up a book like this. Recommended to big fans of sci-fi thrillers, especially with elements of horror. It’s more similar to The Maze Runner than to The Fifth Wave—it’s The Fifth Wave for action-fans instead of character-driven readers. Similar to the feel of Shusterman’s Unwind. Give to all the boys!


Welcome Cress, the newest princess in Marissa Meyer’s series of YA sci-fi fairytale retellings, the Lunar Chronicles.

Cress lives in a Lunar satellite that circles Earth, alone but for her netscreens. An accomplished hacker, she contacted Cinder in book I and has been attempting ever since to track and assist the ragged group of fugitives, which now includes Scarlet and Wolf (from book II), along with Cinder and her accomplice Captain Thorne.

As the fugitives realize what an asset Cress could be, they decide to rescue her, an attempt which only serves as the precursor to their most daring rescue yet…Published February 4th 2014 by Feiwel & Friends.

Cress starts out by introducing us to Cress, a type of the fairytale princess Rapunzel, and her satellite prison-home. After the fugitives attempt to rescue her, the book travels far beyond this initial perspective, setting and “Rapunzel” plot point. In fact, it’s a much longer installment than the previous two, and, I think, much more engrossing.

I can’t reveal too much about the series plot without spoilers, but this book is exactly what I wanted from the series. Spacecrafts crash, androids switch bodies, people get kidnapped (then kissed), it’s just all good. Books I & II entertained me, but Meyer finds her sweet spot with Cress. Having the whole crew together, in the beginning, is like a big party. But even as they separate, most get their own individual arcs; Cress and Captain Thorne, in particular, get lots of attention. I never dreaded a storyline out of boredom. And the pacing moves. Nonstop action. It’s awesome.

And that ending. Oooooh man, I can’t wait to start Winter. I’m listening to Fairest, right now.

Overall :

I’m glad I kept listening to this series! This is my favorite installment yet.

4.5/5 STARS

Recommendation :

If you’ve read this far into the series, you’re in for a treat with Cress. If you like YA fiction, you’ll like this series, I’m tellin’ ya.


“We’d set out from Crowe at first light, and the grassland seemed endless. But after another few minutes, a crack appeared in the prairie. As we trotted closer, with every second the crack widened and deepened into a vast canyon that spread to the horizon.

A sunken world within our own. Water and glaciers and time had scooped it out, leaving behind a windy river and tall weathered buttes and mazes of ravines. The steep slopes showed all their ancient layers—tawny, black, gray, red—like the diagrams in Father’s geology books.”

Many reviewers have heard this novel described as Indiana Jones meets Romeo and Juliet, and that’s exactly what it is.

Premise :

Professor Cartland and Professor Bolt feud like the Capulets and the Montagues. But these two American professors war over something brand new on the 19th century western frontier: dinosaur bones. Particularly the bones of what young Samuel Bolt likes to call the “rex.” When Samuel Bolt and Rachel Cartland, the teenaged offspring of the rival professors, fall in love, the race to find the rex gets even more complicated. YA Crossover Historical/Western Romance thing. Published October 11, 2016 by Simon and Schuster. Goodreads. Author Link.

Thoughts :

I knew from reading Kenneth Oppel’s Airborne that I could easily love his work. His enthusiasm for the details is contagious and his prose is flawless. His novel Airborne lacks narrative drive and the character development that would have made it a spectacular read, for me; but I was still amazed by the details of the airships and all the research that went into portraying the luxury airliners. So when I saw Every Hidden Thing, I was immensely curious to see how Oppel had developed his writing.

Samuel Bolt and Rachel Cartland narrate the book. Samuel is a budding paleontologist hampered by his father’s reputation as a passionate but unschooled and impoverished “professor.” He knows they must travel to the Badlands to find the dinosaur of dinosaurs, which he dubs “tyrannosaurus rex,” in order to secure their fortunes and reputations.

Then he meets Rachel.

Rachel Cartland is a serious student of paleontology who dreams, above all, of getting a college degree and rising high in the field. She’s a tough girl who recognizes the possibilities that women should and don’t have, in the late 19th century. When she makes a risky but successful move, out in the field, her father reacts badly, and she thinks,

This was not the reaction I’d been hoping for. If I’d been a boy would he have praised me for my devotion, my initiative?”

But she never feels sorry for herself. She just pushes on to the next opportunity. She works hard to get to the Badlands with her father, and when they find one of the rex teeth, she becomes as determined as Samuel to find the prize.

Some reviewers are complaining that Rachel seems cold and unfeeling. On the contrary, I find Rachel the most compelling protagonist of the entire cast. YA often tries and miserably fails to portray the plain, but unusually bright teenage girl. Oppel pulls it off with a brainy first person narration, paired with the life experiences that would realistically go along with her characteristics. I think he imagined Rachel with fantastic precision.

The relationship between Rachel and Samuel brings them both to life, just as the rivalry brings their fathers to life. Rachel doesn’t drive the plot, the way Samuel does, but she does drive Samuel onward. Sam wants nothing so much as to be loved, and Rachel’s admiration and liking inspire him to man up, instead of letting his father run his life. I love their relationship so, so much, although it does get a little more, er, adult, than I would normally green light for a YA novel. It’s just done so well, though!

A few reviewers complained about the romance being “awkward,” and I’m pretty sure I know why. This book breaks all the YA romance stereotypes and I LOVE that about it. But not everyone will. It feels like a historical fiction romance…because that’s what it is. This is not an airbrushed romance because there is nothing discreet about an archaeological dig in the 19th century badlands. In addition, real relationships are hard and require communication; unlike this novel, the typical YA romance fails to accurately convey that reality.

I also love how Oppel brings a personal quality to every subject he examines. Samuel and his father are Quakers, and Oppel manages to share the heart of the Quaker faith while also showing the very fallible representatives humanity can be of faith. The book also takes our travelers straight into the territories of two Native American Plains tribes: Lakota Sioux and Pawnee. Oppel carefully portrays the multitude of confused perspectives on Natives during this time period, then personalizes the Natives and their problems.

Samuel on his pre-badlands experience with Natives:

I didn’t know much about Indians. The only one I’d ever seen, at a circus back home, turned out to be a man in face paint who was actually speaking Latvian.”

But later on, Samuel interacts with the Natives and gives their plight a lot of thought. After he and his crew narrowly survive an attack by an unspecified group of Natives, he offers the perspective,

We’d fight, too…if it were the other way around. Wouldn’t we?”

The Booklist review complains that the ending of the book “smacks of cultural appropriation,” but I love how the ending brings the Sioux mythology to life.

Other Stuff :

I did have two major complaints: (1) The beginning of this book really should tell readers when the book is set. The author’s note at the back helps, but teen readers may not check there and may not realize that the book is set during the late 19th century. (2) The plot involves a few major coincidences, related to finding the rex bones. Thankfully, the book really isn’t about the plot—it’s a very character-driven work.

Overall :

Plot: 3 Stars
Setting: 5 Stars
Characters: 5 Stars
Writing: 5 Stars

The average of these scores is 4.5 stars, but I don’t care. I’m rounding up to five stars because this book deserves every single one. Not only does Oppel perfectly develop the characters and the dry hope of the American dream out West, he examines religious life and Natives with the same amount of care, all in the context of a gripping drama.

*****5/5 STARS

Recommendation :

I’m going to recommend ages 16+ on this one, mostly because of the schmexy scenes (yes, there are multiple). [It explores the rocky beginning of a marriage. (hide spoiler)] But really…I loved this book. Highly recommended to fans of historical fiction and crossover YA. I already got a copy for my library!

the-aeronauts-windlass-the-cinder-spires-1-by-jim-butcherThis book is a little hard to explain.

There’s some o’ this:

“The Auroran airship was a faint blot against the thick clouds below, while Predator was hidden high above in the aerosphere by the glare of the sun.

…Grimm felt a wolfish grin touch his mouth. He reached up to tighten the band of his peaked cap in preparation for the dive, and nodded slightly to one side. ‘Mister Kettle,’ he said, ‘you may begin your dive.’”

Lots of this:

“The silkeweaver’s massive form moved like lightening, like some engine of destruction, its clublike limbs hammering the ground with cracks of impact like heavy steam pistons slamming the spirestone floor.”

And, thankfully, also some of this:

She gathered Rowl in her arms and hugged him to her, rocking back and forth slightly.

After a few moments, the cat murmured, ‘Littlemouse, you are squishing my fur.’”

About :

The jacket and Goodreads summaries focus almost solely on the airship captain known to his crew as “Captain Grimm,” but other characters—specifically, the masses of young characters and the cats—stole the show, for me.

Still, I’d better start with the captain. Grimm runs a sort of privateering enterprise against Spire Aurora for his home spire, Albion. Although disgraced and ejected from the navy years ago, he remains loyal to the spirarch. We spend some time on his beloved merchant ship, Predator, but we spend at least as much time running around Spire Albion with the captain as tensions heat up between the two spires and naval warfare transitions to land-based warfare.

And this is where all the young people come in!

  • Gweldolyn of the proud house of Lancaster is serving one year in the Spirearch’s Guard. As a matter of honor, she insists.
  • Another young guard, Bridget, is of the much poorer—but just as honor-mad—house of Tagwynn.
  • Rowl of the Silent Paws is a cat and Bridget’s best friend. The cats are my favorite things. Ever.
  • Benedict Sorrellin-Lancaster is a “warrior-born” cousin of Gwendolyn’s. Warrior-borns have a strange, stigmatized mix of animal and human traits that make them lethal predators while remaining human in most other ways.

These four meet each other in training for the Spirearch’s Guard. But their training comes to an abrupt and premature end when Spire Aurora attacks their home spire with uncanny prescience of Albion’s ways. The Lord of Albion orders the young people to join Grimm and two mad “etherealists” of mysterious and unknown power (Ferus and Folly, they’re called, and I love them, too), on a secret mission to discover the details of the plot against them.

Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2016), Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award (RT Award) for Fantasy Adventure (2015), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy (2015). Adult steampunk fantasy published September 29th 2015 by Roc.

Part of the reason the book is so hard to describe is that it feels very much like setup. It sets up the series. It feels scattered, in the sense that it’s hard to encapsulate the plot within a pithy premise; even though book I’s adventure comes to an end, the real story is just beginning. This book details the first clash between spires Aurora and Albion, but we hardly get any answers about why it happened.

The Cool Things :

The cats. The warriorborn. The etherealists. The airships. The silkweavers. OH AND THE SURFACE, can we please go to the surface now? Because I have to know what’s going on below these lofty spires.

Other Stuff :

I don’t have complaints, per se. The book lacks certain elements of the very modern humor I’m currently enjoying in Butcher’s Dresden Files; and I would have preferred a little quicker plotting. But I was mildly interested during the entire book and occasionally tickled by the cats. (If that doesn’t sound like wildly enthusiastic praise, keep in mind that the setup for the series is what drove my interest, for the most part.) I didn’t love the plot, but I liked it and I can see the worldbuilding has potential for some cool stuff in the future. *AHEM SURFACE MONSTERS AHEM*

Overall :

I enjoyed the book. Butcher is trying something new and I’m totally along for the ride.

Recommendations :

I’ve heard this described as “like YA,” but despite the youngish average age of the cast (most are in their late teens, I think), and the fact that a training school is present for a very small portion of the narrative, as well as the lack of what I generally label “objectionable content”….I wouldn’t classify this as YA. It’s over 600 pages. And while that, in and of itself, may not preclude it from the YA shelf, the book also hosts a large cast of narrators, several of whom are adults. Also, romance is an almost-afterthought, which is basically almost never the case with YA. These three things will likely tend to rule out a large part of the YA market. I think this lands more squarely within the adult fantasy market, which will be patient with a giant book that is primarily meant to set up a series.

Still, if you consider yourself a big fan of YA, this book could be a great intro to adult fantasy. The wide scope combined with the multiple teen characters, talking animals and tasteful ambiance give the book a unique feel that I think certain YA readers would find pleasing. I would recommend it to YA lovers who enjoyed the feel of Brandon Sanderson’s original Mistborn trilogy. (By which I mean, “It’s interesting, even if book I isn’t immediately emotionally compelling.”)

3.5/5 STARS

crosstalk“In the not-too-distant future, a simple outpatient procedure to increase empathy between romantic partners has become all the rage.” –From the description.

About :

Briddey and her boyfriend of six weeks, Trent, work for a small but competitive mobile phone company that aims to supersede Apple in the business of communication. So when Trent asks Briddey to get an “EED” with him, a brain surgery that allows romantic partners to feel each other’s emotions and, supposedly, to communicate better through emotional bonding, they become the talk of the office. That’s a problem for Briddey, who desperately wants to keep the news from her nosey Irish family. But Trent’s explanation easily melts her into agreement: he wants her to feel how much he loves her when he proposes. So Briddey happily sneaks to her surgery, dodging pesky family and coworkers alike.

But once the surgery is done, she finds that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. She hasn’t emotionally bonded to Trent…

She’s telepathically bonded to someone else. Crosstalk was published September 20th 2016 by Del Rey. Adult sociological sci-fi. Connie Willis has won ten Hugo Awards, six Nebula Awards and more.

Thoughts :

This book is so funny. It’s like Jane Austen + telepathic Twitter. Romantic comedy at its modern greatest. I knew from the beginning that I was going to enjoy the book, but I wasn’t sure how much until around 34%-35%.

We spend the first 30+% with Briddey the vapid executive, as she runs around her office getting lots of gifts from an almost-absentee boyfriend and trying to avoid all the nosy people in her workplace and family long enough to actually get the surgery. The absurdist flavor of the humor (highlighted in conversations about nothing, endless interruptions of Briddey’s agenda and our heroine’s almost blind determination to have the EDD operation despite warnings about unintended consequences) runs consistently throughout the book, but it’s especially present in the beginning, before Briddey experiences any character growth.

The reader’s patience is rewarded around 34-35%, when Briddey starts seeing herself from the perspective of others’ private thoughts. That moment, with its inherent character growth, hooked me on this book. Suddenly, the characters filled out and I really wanted to know how Briddey was going to handle the extrasensory data following her EED.

I love how Connie Willis develops the theories of telepathy—and she manages it in humorous data dumps from one particular character. (This character is a huge part of why I loved the book. That’s as much as I can say without spoilers!) Readers can enjoy this element whether they regularly read in the speculative genre or not; the learning curve, while interesting, is minimal.

I also love the chattiness of the telepathy.

Dawn patrol to Night Fighter, come in, Night Fighter.”

At this moment, the heroine is still learning that her private thoughts are no longer private:

She opened the door. He was leaning against the doorjamb, wearing a hoodie and a pair of baggy pants, his hair a tangled mess.

‘Thanks,’ he said. ‘You look nice, too.'”

Willis takes every opportunity to spin a joke with the mind chatter, but it’s not all lighthearted. When things go wrong, in the mental sphere, Briddey has to develop coping mechanisms, and Willis makes the whole experience very real for the reader using strong, concrete details and imagery. As it turns out, telepathy can seriously mess with your psyche. Willis hones in on the sentiment that no, seriously, you don’t want to know what everyone thinks about you.

It’s a good thing I was already listening to and loving another book when I finished reading Crosstalk because otherwise I’d be in a major book hangover right now. I completely loved Crosstalk.

The only thing I would change is the length of the book. It’s really long for a modern romantic comedy, even if we give Willis extra pages to explore the speculative element. The author includes lots of unnecessary (not irrelevant, but just repetitive) details and conversations. At the same time, these absurdist touches are clearly intentional and part of the charm. It was fun—more than fun—to get so completely caught up in the world and the romance.

And now that I’m finished, I wish I had time to go back and reread the whole thing. I already went back and reread my favorite bits, an indulgence I rarely make time for, these days.

Overall :

A light and absorbing—but not insubstantial—exploration of communication and love in the modern world. Full marks, baby. I’m definitely buying a hard copy of Crosstalk, next book haul. I’ve already recommended it to three people at work.

Recommendations :

Readers who don’t mind a longer romantic comedy. Teens will love this, if they get past the first 30%. There’s no sex and minimal swearing. I’m serious, it’s adorable, give it to young adult readers who enjoy contemporary romance.

*****5/5 STARS

Huge thanks to Connie Willis, Del Rey and Netgalley for the free review copy!


“Sharply told in a fantastic new format, ReMade should be on your radar.”- James Dashner, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Maze Runner series

“Umta walked over to the group, and they immediately grew quiet. Most of them looked away…Only May looked her in the eyes; she was that brave at least. But the look she gave Umta was loaded with the unspoken question on everyone’s mind: Where did you come from?”

Umta is different from the rest of the characters populating the YA Dystopian serial ReMade. She’s not even human–she lived during the ancient past, instead of a modern/contemporary age like all the other characters. But like the others, she was given a second chance to live, after her untimely death. Now she’s eager to protect these soft, strange children as if they were her own.

But something out there is stalking them; and this time, it isn’t just a wild animal. Episode 1.5 was authored by Matthew Cody and published October 12th 2016 by Serial Box Publishing.

Thoughts :

I took almost no notes on this story because I flew through it. Matthew Cody is a great writer. Not only is Umta the most compelling protagonist yet, but this episode finally managed some narrative tension. I think it’s tied with episode 1 (the other episode written by Matthew Cody) for my favorite.

I cheered, early on, when we got a few hints of worldbuilding:

At 22%:

The tracks run north and south, and get this—the rails are humming. Vibrating. I think the power’s still on, like it was back on the station.”



Me at 100%: Well…some stuff happened. But I still don’t know what’s going on. Gah.


This episode frustrated me because I kept imagining I could hear the writers debating how much info to reveal during each installment. “Hey guys, you think it’s time we tell these readers what’s going on?” “Shut up, shhh, no way. Let’s just throw some robots at them, again. It worked in episode 1, didn’t it?”

When story writers are stingy with their forward motion, I start to wonder if it’s because they don’t have many more surprises to spring.

So I’m not sure if I’ll be continuing on, or not. I would have to buy my next three episodes, and at $1.99 for each 40 minute installment, the price can add up quickly. I really needed this episode to blow my mind and it didn’t quite do that.

The caretakers had shared the fruit of knowledge with Umta.”

So share it with us? Pretty please?

Plot: 1.5/5 Stars
Character: 5/5 Stars
Worldbuilding: 2/5 Stars
Writing: 4/5 Stars

***3/5 Stars

Thanks to Matthew Cody, Serial Box Publishing & Netgalley for the free review copy!

“Sharply told in a fantastic new format, ReMade should be on your radar.”- James Dashner, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Maze Runner series

“I’m not pretending to be a hero anymore, he thought.”

When teen gamer Loki woke up in the mysterious Dystopian world of the YA serial ReMade, he got a second chance at life—with a few strings attached. There are no parents, no video games and no modern conveniences. Instead, there are wild animals, robots and space elevators.

And while Loki can aim a gun pretty well, adapting his gamer skills to this new terrain will take every bit of his imagination. Remade 1.4 by E. C. Meyers. Published October 5th 2016 by Serial Box Publishing.

Thoughts :

In this episode, like the others, we get to know the narrator and learn about his death as he finds a place for himself in this new world—and in this case, Loki finds himself among the leadership of the teens as they battle a predator that has been stalking them. As with all of the previous ReMade narrators, Loki is phenomenally drawn and totally sympathetic; but the scenes set during his previous life (and death, although we don’t get the details in this episode) trouble me even more than the other episodes have. I won’t spoil anything for you, but wow! This kid needs a hug.

Also like the other episodes, there is action, but the plot crawls. There’s almost no real forward movement and we still have no answers about why the teens are here.

Plot: 1.5/5 Stars
Characters: 5/5 Stars
Worldbuilding: 1.5/5 Stars
Writing: 3.5/5 Stars


I’ll round up to 3/5 Stars. I really want to see some plot progression. I understand the need to introduce characters to the serial, but I’m not enjoying the world enough to make up for the mysterious lack of information.

Recommended To :

I’m not comfortable recommending the serial until I start getting some answers. Thankfully, I suspect the next episode, narrated by Umta (the only adult among the ReMade survivors), will give us some of those answers.

Thank you to E. C. Meyers, Serial Box Publishing and Netgalley for my free review copy of ReMade 1.4!

the-eterna-filesIt’s 1882 and an American research group is working to discover the secret to immortality. They’re finally making progress on what they’ve named the “Eterna” compound when an otherworldly force kills the lot of them.

But that won’t stop Queen Victoria, in London, from capitalizing on their work. She employs her own research team, Special Branch Division Omega, to find out what the Americans discovered and to succeed where they failed. Skeptic Harold Spire of the London Police force is assigned to the case by the queen herself, along with Rose Everhardt, who becomes Spire’s chief researcher.

Meanwhile, the Americans investigate the mysterious deaths of the research team. Clara Templeton, whose lover numbered among the dead, won’t rest until she gets answers.

Published February 3rd 2015 by Tor Books.

Thoughts :

I won this book—plus its sequel and another book by Leanna Renee Hieber—in a giveaway on Tor’s book blog. What a nice package! Thanks so much to Tor. I hardly had to look beyond Hieber’s impressive resume before knowing, just knowing I would love this book. The idea is sooo cool.

Unfortunately, it’s just not working out for me.


I hate to DNF any book, especially the first in a series or the first of an author new to me; but by page 105, I had read enough of The Eterna Files to know I wasn’t going to enjoy the book. And just to make sure, I read several detailed reviews of both this book and book II and decided I was right to go with my instinct to DNF.

Why DNF? :

The characters are the root cause of my problems with this book. The three or four narrators all sound exactly the same, to me. With the exception of Harold Spire, I can barely tell them apart—even the ones on separate continents—and I don’t like any of them anyway. While reading the first fifty pages, I kept thinking Clara and Sarah (er, I mean…what was her name? Rose, right) were the same woman. “But how does she keep getting back and forth to each continent?” I kept wondering. “And whoa—this American outcast is employed by Queen Victoria?!” You can see why this confusion might put a damper on my reading experience.

Part of the reason the characters all sound the same is because they all—including the males—mentally note the handsomeness of other men or complain about corsets and other social constraints on women. Keep in mind that this is a male narrating:

“‘Maybe that’s what this life is for!’ Clara said with a hollow laugh, hoisting up her skirts and jumping from the deck onto the dock, never letting feminine finery get in the way of an active spirit no matter how much the fashion of the age tried to limit her sex.” (56).

Does that sound like a guy to you? A Victorian guy? Heavy-handed condemnations of female oppression crop up multiple times throughout the first third of the book. It’s not that I disagree; it just gets old.

Aside from the characters, the handling of homosexuality—which was obviously very controversial at the time—doesn’t appeal to me. A gay woman character remarks, with a “winning” smile, to a clearly heterosexual and much younger woman,

“And don’t worry, if it’s a concern, I don’t seduce coworkers.”

I mean, good for you? Seriously, that would be sexual harassment. I don’t excuse sexual harassment just because you’re socially oppressed. This weird and uncomfortable humor didn’t help me warm up to the characters at all.

Beyond these concerns, I was also bored. The 100+ pages I read never sparked an interest in me. The narrative lacked tension and suspense.

Basically, the book underwhelms. I just didn’t feel like I was in the hands of a master storyteller and the mystery quickly lost interest, for me.

If you want to read a review from someone who actually finished the book, check out Mogsy’s great review over at The Bibliosanctum. (Seriously, go check it out. It’s one of my favorite blogs!)

Recommendations :

Other reviewers have been generous enough to say that The Eterna Files might appeal to a certain type of reader. It might. I’m not sure. If it sounds interesting to you, by all means give the first 100 pages a sniff and see if it might be up your alley. You should be able to tell fairly quickly if the style works for you or not. But I would recommend The Parasol Protectorate series over this book; Soulless is a much more fun example of Victorian fantasy. I do have my eye on one of the other books from the Tor giveaway, Hieber’s The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, which just sounds amazing. I know, I know, The Eterna Files did too, but I can’t resist the all these awards, can I?

Anyway, all three of the giveaway books are now on the shelves of my local library, so I expect plenty of readers to find and enjoy them. In fact, one man already told me he enjoyed The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker!