Category Archives: Book Reviews

Fantasy Book Review: Wings of Fire: The Poison Jungle

Wings of Fire: The Poison Jungle by Tui T. Sutherland

Synopsis:
It’s no secret that Sundew wants to destroy the HiveWings. It’s her life’s mission to exact revenge on the tribe that tried to wipe out the LeafWings and ripped every tree from the surface of Pantala.

Every tree, that is, except the wild and dangerous Poison Jungle, where the surviving LeafWings have been hiding since the war. Hiding, plotting, and waiting for a dragon like Sundew, who is uniquely qualified to bring down the Hives.

There are dark secrets in the jungle, though-some that Sundew is keeping, and some that she’s only just beginning to discover. And now that a new war is upon them, Sundew and her friends must unearth the oldest secret in the jungle-even if what they find has the power to destroy them all.

Review:
The Poison Jungle is the 13th book in the Wings of Fire series. This latest story arc is set in a distant land where the Hivewing queen controls the Silkwings and have driven the Leafwings into hiding. Sundew’s Leafwing sect is ready to take out the Hivewing queen at any cost. But the rest of the Leafwings want to live in peace. But the Leafwing queen has been keeping a secret, with consequences that could destroy everything.

Sundew and her friends are another group of fun and engaging characters. This latest installment is full of danger and suspense. Somehow, this series hasn’t gotten stale at all. The stories continue to evolve and become more complex, adding new characters along the way. It’s a quick read that I always wish was a bit longer. And the climactic ending leaves off with a big cliffhanger.

SciFi Book Review: Containment

Containment by Caryn Lix

Synopsis:
Ex-Omnistellar prison guard Kenzie and her superpowered friends barely made it off Sanctuary alive. Now they’re stuck in a stolen alien ship with nowhere to go and no one to help them. Kenzie is desperate for a plan, but she doesn’t know who to trust anymore. Everyone has their own dark secrets: Omnistellar, her parents, even Cage. Worse still, she’s haunted by memories of the aliens who nearly tore her to shreds—and forced her to accidentally kill one of the Sanctuary prisoners, Matt.

When Kenzie intercepts a radio communication suggesting that more aliens are on their way, she knows there’s only one choice: They must destroy the ship before the aliens follow the signal straight to them. Because if the monstrous creatures who attacked Sanctuary reach Earth, then it’s game over for humanity.

What Kenzie doesn’t know is that the aliens aren’t the only ones on the hunt. Omnistellar has put a bounty on Kenzie’s head—and the question is whether the aliens or Omnistellar get to her first.

Review:
Containment is the sequel to last-year’s scifi thriller Sanctuary. Kenzie and the teenage, escaped Sanctuary prisoners are on the run from Omnistellar and deadly aliens. It seems like they should take their chances with Omnistellar, but no one seems to believe them when they say more of the aliens are coming.

The feel of this sequel is a little less intense than before, mostly because they aren’t stuck on one claustrophobic ship. Sanctuary felt like Alien meets X-Men. But this sequel had more story and character development. With plenty of suspense, intrigue, and dangerous foes – this novel is an exciting thrill ride that doesn’t stop. Despite the size of the book, I read it quickly. I appreciate that there isn’t cheesy, insta-love, but relationships that seem genuine – which develop through the story as well. And there are several surprises along the way. I look forward to the next in this heart-pounding series.

Fantasy Book Review: Magic for Liars

Magic for Liars: A Novel

Synopsis:
Ivy Gamble was born without magic and never wanted it.
Ivy Gamble is perfectly happy with her life – or at least, she’s perfectly fine.
She doesn’t in any way wish she was like Tabitha, her estranged, gifted twin sister.
Ivy Gamble is a liar.

When a gruesome murder is discovered at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages, where her estranged twin sister teaches Theoretical Magic, reluctant detective Ivy Gamble is pulled into the world of untold power and dangerous secrets. She will have to find a murderer and reclaim her sister―without losing herself.

Review:
I’ve been in the mood for murder mysteries lately, so this was a great pick.
Ivy is tough and smart private detective. She’s hired to find a killer at a school for magic. Though Ivy doesn’t have magic, she has a connection to the school through her sister. The murder itself was done with magic, so regular police weren’t able to assist.

This magic-laden murder mystery is a lot of fun, despite the darker subject matter. Full of danger, suspense, drama, teen angst, and a bit of romance – this was a thrilling read. And I loved that the final twist was unpredictable. This is a character-driven story that kept me engaged till the very end.

Book Review: Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town

Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher

Synopsis:
Christmas, Hawkins, 1984. All Chief Jim Hopper wants is to enjoy a quiet first Christmas with Eleven, but his adopted daughter has other plans. Over Hopper’s protests, she pulls a cardboard box marked “New York” out of the basement—and the tough questions begin. Why did Hopper leave Hawkins all those years ago? What does “Vietnam” mean? And why has he never talked about New York?

Summer, New York City, 1977. Hopper is starting over after returning home from Vietnam. A young daughter, a caring wife, and a new beat as an NYPD detective make it easy to slip back into life as a civilian. But after shadowy federal agents suddenly show up and seize the files about a series of brutal, unsolved murders, Hopper takes matters into his own hands, risking everything to discover the truth.

Review:
Darkness on the Edge of Town is a standalone, original novel from Hopper’s past. The story is told by Hopper to Eleven, with bits of conversation between the two throughout the novel. As a new police detective in New York, Hopper is given a new partner just as cagey government agents seize the case they had just started working.

As young Hopper and his partner investigate ritualistic murders, they stumble upon something bigger. And Hopper has to infiltrate a cult undercover. This story is a mix of murder mystery and thriller. Loaded with suspense and intrigue, I read this one quickly. The excitement builds to a climactic ending that doesn’t disappoint. This novel was a great way to keep me eager for this new season.

Graphic Novel Review: Before Houdini and After Houdini

Before Houdini by Jeremy Holt

Synopsis:
The exciting second volume of the After Houdini saga explores the origins of the elusive master of magic, the man who would become…Houdini.

London, 1888. A shadowy killer stalks the streets of London, his appetite for blood unleashed upon the city’s lower classes. To defeat him, MI6 turns to its most top-secret team: four teenage agents with extraordinary gifts—including a young American immigrant with a talent for illusion . . .

After Houdini began the story of Josef Houdini, son of the famous Harry Houdini—brillian illusionist, acclaimed escape artist, and top-secret covert operative. Now we turn back the clock and meet Ehrich Weiss, a young man whose skill at picking locks is about to land him the adventure of his dreams, and pull him into a war that will affect his life—and his son’s—for years to come. This is the story of Ehrich’s strange beginnings, from before he was a world-famous magician. Before he was a master of espionage. Before he was…Houdini.

After Houdini by Jeremy Holt

Synopsis:
Harry Houdini, master magician and covert spy for the United States, has been kidnapped. The only man who can save him is his estranged son Josef, who, like his father, knows the power of magic—and how it can be more than just an illusion.

Josef Houdini takes after his father: A gifted escape artist, there’s not a jam he can’t get himself out of. Then again, when your father is one of the greatest illusionists of all time, that comes as no surprise. What does come as a surprise is the fact that Harry Houdini is not only the world’s greatest magician, but also a top-secret operative for the US government during World War I. In rare form he finds himself trapped—stuck on a mission he is unable to escape from. That’s why the government needs his son to fill his shoes and complete the mission—but does Josef have the wherewithal to do it? Or is the possibility of success just an illusion?

Review:
I was able to read these graphic novels back-to-back with no prior knowledge of the series. And even though After Houdini was published first, I read Before Houdini first. The villain is the main connection between the two stories. Young Ehrich Weiss (Houdini) is recruited to a secret organization within MI6 that deals with the paranormal. Then, in After Houdini, his son is recruited. I actually enjoyed the prequel a bit more because of there were other fascinating characters with abilities. And the story was even more thrilling.

While the stories are different, they both have the same mix of mystery and horror. And the suspense builds to dark but satisfying finales. The artwork certainly adds to the nostalgic feel, hard and edgy. Though, I had a hard time telling a couple of the older gentlemen apart in After Houdini, which was a bit confusing at times. I also wish we learned something more about the monstrous villain. I hope there is a planned continuation of the story in Before Houdini, as there seems to be a lot left to explore.

Fantasy Book Review: The Chosen

The Chosen by Taran Matharu

Synopsis:
Throughout history, people have vanished with no explanation. A group of teenagers are about to discover why.

Cade is settling into a new boarding school, contemplating his future, when he finds himself transported to another realm. He soon discovers their new world is populated with lost remnants from the past: prehistoric creatures, ancient relics, and stranger still―people. Overwhelmed by his new surroundings, Cade has little time to adjust, for soon he and his fellow classmates are forced to become contenders in a brutal game, controlled by mysterious overlords.

Review:
Cade is a misunderstood kid with no friends. Then suddenly, he arrives in a strange land along with some of his classmates in what seems to be a brutal game. There are few answers, and Cade has to rely on his knowledge, as well as the kindness of others, just to stay alive.

The Chosen is the first in a new YA science fiction series. This first novel is action-packed, dramatic, and mysterious. We’re introduced to many characters from several time periods – as well as some strange and dangerous creatures. Cade is a smart and likable boy. And he’s painfully relatable when he makes a selfish decision that he regrets later. We finally get some answers at the end of the book. Though the big reveal is quite strange, I look forward to reading more. This dark and suspenseful story is fast-paced and over too quickly. I will be impatiently waiting for the next in this engaging series.

Book Review: Star Trek: The Original Series: The Captain’s Oath

Star Trek: The Original Series: The Captain’s Oath by Christopher L. Bennett

Synopsis:
The saga of James T. Kirk’s historic command of the U.S.S. Enterprise is known throughout the galaxy. But one part of the legend has barely been touched upon until now: the story of Kirk’s first starship command and the remarkable achievements by which Starfleet’s youngest captain earned the right to succeed Christopher Pike as the commander of the famous Enterprise. From his early battles with the Klingons to the rescue of endangered civilizations, Kirk grapples with difficult questions: Is he a warrior or a peacemaker? Should he obey regulations or trust his instincts? This thrilling novel illustrates the events and choices that would shape James T. Kirk into one of the most renowned captains in Starfleet history.

Review:
The Captain’s Oath is told from two timelines: when Kirk is first assigned to the Enterprise and his time as captain of the Sacagawea just prior to the Enterprise. The novel jumps back and forth between the 2 timelines, but it’s easy to follow. Some of the crew of the Enterprise doubt their new, young captain. And their mission to diffuse a conflict will test Kirk. And in the past, Kirk has tough decisions to make about the Prime Directive and the fate of an entire race.

While the two unconnected storylines seem a bit strange, it just tells an overall story about Kirk and the man he is. This complex and engaging read. And there are plenty of mystery, suspense, and moral quandaries. Kirk is the one who doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios, but he is faced with several. He’s a rule follower, so it’s always fun to see him bend the rules and give us opportunities to think about what we would do in his place. I always enjoy these “missing years” novels, and this is no exception. TOS fans will definitely want to pick up this one.

SciFi Book Review: Firefly: The Magnificent Nine

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove

Synopsis:
An old flame of Jayne Cobb’s, Temperance McCloud, sends a message to Serenity, begging him for help. She lives on the arid, far-flung world of Tethys, and bandits are trying to overrun her town to gain control of their water supply: the only thing standing between its people and dustbowl ruin. Jayne tries to persuade the Serenity crew to join the fight, but it is only when he offers Vera, his favorite gun, as collateral that Mal realizes he’s serious.

When the Serenity crew land at a hardscrabble desert outpost called Coogan’s Bluff, they discover two things: an outlaw gang with an almost fanatical devotion to their leader who will stop at nothing to get what they want, and that Temperance is singlehandedly raising a teenage daughter, born less than a year after Temperance and Jayne broke up. A daughter by the name of Jane McCloud.

Review:
The Magnificent Nine is set after the tv series, but before the movie Serenity. So, the full crew is all here. And this certainly feels like an episode of Firefly and definitely a classic Western. The crew of the Serenity race to help a small town fight off a gang. Jayne has a special history with one of the residents who requests his help, and her daughter happens to be named after him.

This latest Firefly novel is a lot of fun. Besides the crew that we already know and love, there are several interesting new characters. The main villain has an interesting backstory with a bit of mystery. This story has plenty of dangerous villains, suspense, and humor. And a bit of poignant heartwarming drama rounds it out. The flashbacks help move along the current story. And the climactic finale doesn’t disappoint. I love that the series is continuing in novels. And this latest installment is a great addition.