Category Archives: Book Reviews

SciFi Book Review: Devil’s Pocket

Devil’s Pocket by John Dixon

With a chip in his head and hundreds more throughout his body, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman was turned from an orphan with impulse control issues into a super-soldier. Forced into the mercenary Phoenix Force group, he begins to fear he’ll never escape. Sent to a volcanic island to fight for them, he’ll compete in a combat tournament that awards teens with survival for merciless brutality. But just when all looks lost, he spies a friendly face…and possibly a way out.

Carl and a team from Phoenix Island is sent to a compete in a brutal contest – where many die. But there is more going on behind the scenes that Carl will have to face if he wants to get out alive.

Devil’s Pocket is the sequel to Phoenix Island. This science fiction thriller is fast-paced and full of intrigue and suspense. The characters are well-developed and engaging – even the unlikeable ones. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and only wish we had gotten to see more of Carl’s enhanced abilities outside of the fighting ring. The television show based on the first novel was cancelled. But the novels are much better than the show, as to be expected.

Fantasy Book Review: The Nightmare Charade

The Nightmare Charade by Mindee Arnett

16-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally. Dusty is a magical being who feeds on human dreams.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy is hard enough, not to mention the crazy events of the past year. Dusty may have saved the day, but there are many days left in the year, and with an old foe back to seek revenge, she’ll need all her strength to defeat him and save her friends.

Dusty and her friends have a new mystery to solve – keeping her mother from being convicted of murder by finding the real killer. To complicate matters, Paul shows up again but claims he can help. Meanwhile, Dusty and her boyfriend are still trying to be with each other despite being told they’ll be cursed for their decision.

The Nightmare Charade is the third and final installment in the Arkwell Academy series. While each book has it’s own mystery, the overlying arc is finally tied up – and doesn’t disappoint. This story is well-paced and full of suspense, intrigue, strong characters, and fun twists. Don’t miss this unique YA fantasy trilogy. I only wish the series would continue, as I’ll miss these characters and fantastic worldbuilding.

Fantasy Book Review: Kitty Saves the World

Kitty Saves the World by Carrie Vaughn

It’s all come down to this, following the discoveries made by Cormac in Low Midnight, Kitty and her allies are ready to strike. But, when their assassination attempt on the evil vampire Dux Bellorum fails, Kitty finds herself running out of time. The elusive vampire lord has begun his apocalyptic end game, and Kitty still doesn’t know where he will strike.

Meanwhile, pressure mounts in Denver as Kitty and her pack begin to experience the true reach of Dux Bellorum’s cult. Outnumbered and outgunned at every turn, the stakes have never been higher for Kitty. She will have to call on allies both old and new in order to save not just her family and friends, but the rest of the world as well.

Kitty Saves the World is the fourteenth(!) and final installment in the Kitty Norville series. Kitty and her friends decide to take down Roman once and for all. Knowing that if they don’t, he’ll bring down hell on earth. This final installment is full of fast-paced action and suspense. The characters are so well-developed, that you can jump in at any point and still enjoy the story. I haven’t read them all in order, and have no problem. But after reading about what I missed, I can’t wait to go back and catch up. The conclusion of this long-running series is bittersweet. This is urban fantasy at it’s finest. But Vaughn has done an amazing job of creating interesting characters and keeping ideas fresh and fun to read. I’ll miss this series, but look forward to what else the author has coming.

Fantasy Book Review: The Isle of the Lost

The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz

Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon to the Isle of the Lost–a dark and dreary place protected by a force field that makes it impossible for them to leave. Stripped of their magical powers, the villains now live in total isolation, forgotten by the world.

Mal learns from her mother, Maleficent, that the key to true darkness, the Dragon’s Eye, is located inside her scepter in the forbidden fortress on the far side of the island. The eye is cursed, and whoever retrieves it will be knocked into a deep sleep for a thousand years. But Mal has a plan to capture it. She’ll just need a little help from her “friends.” In their quest for the Dragon’s Eye, these four kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain’t so bad.

The Isle of the Lost is a prelude to the recent Disney direct-to-tv release of Descendants. Before I saw the movie, I knew I wanted to read this book. The idea of a story involving the children of these infamous villains is not something I could miss. I’m a sucker for fairy tales, Disney or any other, as long as it’s a happy ending. And giving these kids a chance to be something other than their evil parents is inspired.

This is the story of four young teens, the children of Maleficent, Cruella De Vil , Jafar, and Snow White’s Evil Queen. The four are taught to be like their evil parents, just out for themselves and trust no one. But on a quest for Maleficent, the four find the value of teamwork and friendship. And beyond the Isle of Lost, back in Auradon, a young prince has dreams of becoming a good king and making changes for the better.

It’s an incredibly fun and heartwarming story – the perfect pairing to the Descendants film. These children are a bit more rough around the edges and jaded than the ones in the film, but still at heart, have a need to just please their parents. The author has captured these teens and created an exciting story that young Disney fans will enjoy.

SciFi Book Review: School for Sidekicks

School for Sidekicks by Kelly McCullough

Evan Quick has spent his whole life dreaming of becoming a hero. Every morning he wakes up and runs through a checklist of test to see if he’s developed powers over night, and every day it is the same thing – nothing. No flying, no super strength, no heat rays or cold beams. No invulnerability – that always hurt to check – no telepathy, no magic. Not even the ability to light a light bulb without flipping a switch. And now, he’s finally ready to give up.

But then, the class field trip to the Mask Museum is interrupted by a super villain attack, and Evan somehow manages to survive a death ray. Even better, Evan’s favorite Mask, Captain Commanding, shows up to save them all — and when things go very wrong, it’s Evan who finds the strength to come to Captain Commanding’s rescue.

Yet the hero’s reception Evan is expecting never happens. Before he even gets the chance to say hello, Evan is bundled away to The Academy, an institution derisively called The School for Sidekicks by its students. Forced to take classes like Banter Basics and Combat with Dinnerware, while being assigned as an ‘apprentice’ to Foxman – a Mask widely considered a has-been — Evan starts to worry that he’ll never be able to save the day…

Evan Quick loves superheroes and hopes to be one so badly that he checks each morning to see if he has developed powers. I thoroughly enjoyed this, as I remember reading The Girl With the Silver Eyes as a young girl and occasionally checking to see if I could move things with my mind. No luck. But Evan suddenly receives powers and actually saves his hero’s life during an attack. But his hero isn’t everything he thought.

School for Sidekicks is a fun and fantastic book for young X-Men fans. There is plenty of humor, mystery, intrigue, fun characters, codenames, and action. I had a good laugh at one of Evan’s classmates nicknamed Speedslick, which of course reminded me Speedstick. And some not-so-scary heroes and villains named after fluffy creatures were pretty funny too. I’m hoping this release gets a series, but it works well as a standalone too. The excitement builds to a big finale that doesn’t disappoint.

Fantasy Book Review: Faces

Faces by EC Blake

Mara Holdfast is a young woman gifted with the ability to see and use all the colors of magic. Two other people share this talent: the Autarch, who draws upon the very life-force of his subjects to fuel his existence and retain his control over the kingdom; and the legendary Lady of Pain and Fire, the only person who has ever truly challenged the Autarch’s despotic reign.

After a devastating battle that takes a dreadful toll on both the rebel unMasked Army and the forces of Prince Chell, their ally from across the sea, Mara and her fellow survivors have no one to turn to for help but the Lady of Pain and Fire.

As the Lady leads them to her haven beyond the mountain borders of the kingdom, Mara feels that she has found the one person who truly understands her, a mentor who can teach her to control and use her power for the greater good. Together, they may be able to at last free Agryma from the Autarch’s rule.

Living within the Lady’s castle, cut off from her friends in the village far below, Mara immerses herself in her training. Still, she can’t entirely escape from hearing dark hints about the Lady, rumors that the Lady may, in her own way, be as ruthless as the Autarch himself.

Yet it is not until they begin their campaign against the Autarch that Mara discovers where the real danger lies. Driven by the Lady’s thirst for revenge, will Mara and all her friends fall victim in a duel to the death between two masters of magic?

Faces is the third and final novel in the The Masks of Aygrima series. The majority of the story is about Mara learning everything she can from the Lady and how she begins to distance herself from her friends, and unknowingly becoming more like the Lady despite her refusal to become a villain. The pacing picks up later in the story as the resistance begins to attack the Watchers and mines. And Mara begins to learn who the Lady really is.

The conclusion of this fantastic trilogy does not disappoint. From Mara’s inner turmoil and relationships with those around her to the final battle – it’s suspenseful and full of surprises. Don’t miss this intriguing world of magic and masks. It’s a dark fantasy trilogy with incredible world-building, interesting characters, and a heroic story.

Star Trek: Heroes and Villains Magazine

Now through October 21st, CBS Watch! magazine presents Star Trek: Heroes and Villains.

The 100-page special issueStar Trek: Heroes and Villains highlights 50 villains and 50 heroes from the Original series. There are rare photos, interviews, facts, trivia and exclusive content that Original series fans will enjoy. It looks like a nice collector’s piece at a decent price right now. It reminds me of when I subscribed to the Star Trek magazine years ago. Except this has many more pictures, and isn’t nearly as text heavy.

Fantasy Book Review: Dead Man’s Reach

Dead Man’s Reach by DB Jackson

Boston, 1770: The city is a powder keg as tensions between would-be rebels and loyalist torries approach a breaking point and one man is willing to light the match that sets everything off to ensure that he has his revenge.

The presence of the British Regulars has made thieftaking a hard business to be in and the jobs that are available are reserved for Sephira Pryce. Ethan Kaille has to resort to taking on jobs that he would otherwise pass up, namely protecting the shops of Torries from Patriot mobs. But, when one British loyalist takes things too far and accidentally kills a young boy, even Ethan reconsiders his line of work. Even more troubling is that instances of violence in the city are increasing, and Ethan often finds himself at the center of the trouble.

Once Ethan realizes why he is at the center of all the violence, he finds out that some enemies don’t stay buried and will stop at nothing to ruin Ethan’s life. Even if that means costing the lives of everyone in Boston, including the people that Ethan loves most.

Ethan Kaille is a thieftaker (detective) and conjuror in a time when witches are burned at the stake. The setting is early America, right before the American Revolution – in an alternate world where powerful magic exists.

Dead Man’s Reach is the fourth (and final, for now) installment in the The Thieftaker Chronicles. This has been a favorite series of mine, so I hate to see it end. But this novel wraps up an open-ended storyline that doesn’t disappoint. My only complaint is that Ethan’s love interest seems dull compared to the other women in his life. His conjuror friend is mysterious, and his professional competition (while ruthless) has a huge personality who steals the scene whenever she’s there. I love these characters, the mysteries, and unique world. And I certainly hope that eventually more books follow in this fantastic series. It’s always one I’ll recommend.