Book Review: Our War by Craig DiLouie @CraigDiLouie @orbitbooks @SDSXXTours

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Book Review: Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

Wake of VulturesWake of Vultures
The Shadow: Book One
Lila Bowen
Orbit, October 2015
ISBN 978-0-316-26431-0

This was both a joyful and inspiring read.  With a fabulously frantic fast pace, the action-packed adventure to find and conquer the Cannibal Owl sucked me in and carried me along.  The variety of monsters that are encountered all along the way totally tickled my adoration of fantasy, while the main character, Nettie Lonesome, grounded me and filled me with hope and pride.

Nettie’s spunk, whole-hearted courage and unconditional admiration and adoration of all animals are delightfully demonstrated by her actions and blunt dialogue.  Her rough edges are only a thin disguise for her compassion and empathy, making her into the quintessential heroine, in my eyes.

“What if it was a good monster having a bad day?”

Already a huge fan of Delilah Dawson (aka Lila Bowen), I was nevertheless blown away by her clever capability of tackling serious social issues with subtle undertones in this captivating, compelling story.  I think Chuck Wendig summed it up best when he said, “WAKE OF VULTURES doesn’t just fly—it soars.”

“I ain’t white, and that’s all that seems to matter to folks.”

“Suicide was a pleasure she couldn’t afford.”

If you are looking for something completely different yet comfortable and familiar, this is the author for you.  Enjoy.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2016.

A Handful of Shorts

Lisa C. Hinsley
Pocket Star Books, December 2013
ISBN 78-1-4767-3336-4

From the publisher—

A new strain of the bubonic plague is diagnosed in London. Before it can be contained it spreads through the population, faster and deadlier than anyone could have imagined. Three weeks is all it takes to decimate the country.

Johnny and Liz are devastated when their young son, Nathan, starts to show symptoms, but Liz phones the authorities anyway, and a few hours later the army arrives and boards up their house.

Now Nathan is dying and there is nothing they can do to help him. Hours pass like weeks as their little boy grows weaker and weaker. All Liz wants is for them to die with some dignity, but the authorities refuse to help. Then their Internet and phones stop working. Cut off from the world and stuck inside their house, the family tries its best to cope—but there is nothing they can do to stop the lethal epidemic.

Plague by Lisa C. Hinsley is a pandemic-based thriller in which a mutated strain of bubonic plague hits London and races through the population in three weeks. The core of the story is what happens to a young family when the government, in its zeal to stop the disease, quarantines the neighborhood, and maybe much more, but then the military and the scientists disappear.

The most vibrant character is Liz, who is the quintessential mother figure determined to do whatever she can for as long as she can. Along with Liz, I felt the fear when her house is boarded up by the government and there is little to hope for.

I happen to be very fond of this kind of story that revolves around a natural disaster or pandemic and, while this novella is a bit reminiscent of other such novels, it’s really well written and held my attention from beginning to end, wanting to know if there would be any salvation.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.


The Missing Remote of the ApocalypseThe Missing Remote of the Apocalypse
An Afterworlds Short Story
Afterworlds 0.5
Barry Hutchison
HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2012

From the publisher—

A prequel to the comedy fantasy The 13th Horseman, “The Missing Remote of the Apocalypse” sees War, Famine and Pestilence bounced around the Afterworlds due to circumstances beyond their control. They come face to face with a surprised demon, visit the lair of Sedna the She Cannibal (they’ve never met her before, but everyone says she’s a right cow) before finally winding up somewhere worse than they could ever have dreamed…

Why does Pestilence hate Tuesdays? Who gets to be the pink Hungry Hippo? Who’s the guy wearing bunny slippers and a leopard-print dressing gown? Most critical of all, where is the doofer?

Need I say more? Well, I suppose I could but you can find the answers yourself for FREE on Mr. Hutchison‘s website right here. Let this little short story introduce you to the master of mayhem that is Barry Hutchison 😉

Kinda sorta reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.


Charmed I'm SureCharmed I’m Sure
World of Pax Arcana
Elliott James
Orbit, September 2013
ISBN 978-0-316-25345-1

From the publisher—

When Tom Morris encounters a naked man walking along the interstate with no memory of how he got there, the smart thing to do is drive away. The only problem is, Tom Morris has secrets of his own. Like the fact that he comes from a long line of witch finders, monster slayers, and enchantment breakers, or that his real name is Charming. John Charming.

This is one of four shorts written in the universe of Elliott‘s novel, Charming, an urban fantasy. John Charming comes from a long line of monster hunters. In this short story, he runs into a wila, sort of a nasty-tempered and mesmerizingly beautiful nymph, who has been collecting and disposing of, in gruesome ways, hapless human men. Mayhem ensues when our hero sets out to end her fun. Lots of fighting, man versus monster, a touch of humor here and there.

Charming seems to be a bit of a cross between Jack Reacher (mystery thriller series by Lee Child) and Atticus O’Sullivan (The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some might think the full-length novel should be read first for a better understanding of Charming but I didn’t feel that way; this just makes me want to read more and I will be doing so posthaste.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.


Apocalyptic Organ GrinderApocalyptic Organ Grinder
A Hydra Dystopian Novella
William Todd Rose
Hydra/Random House, June 2013
ISBN 978-0-345-54914-3

From the publisher—

A fatal virus—a biowarfare experiment unleashed on an unsuspecting world—has reduced the once-mighty United States to a smattering of tribes dueling for survival in the lawless wilderness. The disease-free folk known as Settlers barricade themselves in small villages, determined to keep out the highly contagious Spewers—infected humans who cannot die from the virus but spread the seeds of death from the festering blisters that cover their bodies.
Tanner Kline is a trained Sweeper, sworn to exterminate Spewers roaming the no-man’s-land surrounding his frightened community. As all Settlers do, Tanner dismisses them as little more than savages—until he meets his match in Spewer protector Lila. But when hunter and hunted clash, their bloody tango ignites a firestorm of fear and hatred. Now, no one is safe from the juggernaut of terror that rages unchecked, and the fate of humanity hangs on questions with no answers: Who’s right, who’s wrong . . . and who’s going to care if everyone’s dead?

This is SUCH a cool book for those like me who love post-apocalyptic fiction.  What’s left of society has devolved into the most primitive existence and two clans are pitted against each other. The Settlers are as healthy as possible in a world of limited hygiene and medical skills while the Spewers are diseased and infectious, not welcome among the Settlers or anywhere nearby. The Spewers are the new version of Typhoid Marys and literally could destroy the little that’s left of humanity.

Still, the two groups have managed to co-exist by keeping their distance but that will all change when Tanner meets Lila and sees for himself that the Spewers are not just carriers of pestilence and, yet, can’t bring himself to believe they deserve any compassion. The increasing tension and anger that affect both sides is palpable and I found myself drawn to Lila as much as to Tanner but deciding which faction is more deserving of survival is a question still roiling in my mind. Mr. Rose has presented a conundrum that may not have any easy solution, leaving his readers much to think about, indeed.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

Book Review: Blood Rights by Kristen Painter

Blood RightsBlood Rights
House of Comarré: Book 1
Kristen Painter
Orbit, October 2011
ISBN 978-0-316-08477-2
Mass Market Paperback

There are all kinds of beings that go unseen in the world. One set of beings are vampires, with the usual traits of speed, strength, rapid healing, and, oh, yes, the need to feed upon pure human blood.

Another set is the Comarré, who have the purest, sweetest, most intoxicating blood of all. They sell exclusive rights to their blood to the highest bidder, earning millions. Usually, this bidder is of the highest echelon of vampire, and the contract lasts as long as the vampire lives—which can be a very long time.

Chrysabelle, who is noted for her intricate golden tattoos, is the comarré of one of the most powerful vampires of all time, Algernon. She wants to buy back her blood rights. When Algernon is murdered and a ring denoting untold power is stolen, she is freed, all right, but she’s also accused of the murder. Only the fringe vampire Malkolm can help her find the murderer and the ring. Unfortunately for her, Malkolm wants nothing to do with her.

Meanwhile, the evil vampire Tatiana aims to destroy both Chrysabelle and Malkolm. She fears that if they recover the ring, her plans to be the most powerful vampire of all time will be thwarted. Tatiana is willing to go to any lengths for her plan to succeed, no matter who she has to kill, or how much she has to pay.

Author Kristen Painter has peopled this world with many different beings. Demons, ghosts, wraiths, some whose kind I can’t even pronounce, as well as ordinary humans who mix freely with vampires and comarré. Dangerous…er…men, warrior women, unexpectedly sympathetic characters, they’re all here. The book is packed with interesting and well-imagined beings. The plot’s not too shabby, either. There’s romance, fighting, and a lot of blood-letting to hold your interest as the story takes the reader from place to place. Good guys and bad guys, especially bad guys, abound.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin

Ice ForgedIce Forged
Gail Z. Martin
Orbit, January 2013
ISBN 978-0-316-09358-3
Trade Paperback

Edgeland is a penal colony across the seas from the Medieval kingdom of Dondareth. Only the worst—and those with powerful enemies—are sent to this prison on the frozen edge of nowhere. And so Blaine “Mick” McFadden, guilty of killing his father who richly deserved to die, is sent there to serve out the rest of his life. However, in a twist, convicts who survive for three years—and not many do—are allowed to become homesteaders and to better their position. Against all odds, Blaine does survive and together with fellow convicts and friends Piran, Dawe, Verran, and Kestel,making some sort of life for himself. The penal colony depends on ships from Dondareth to bring supplies, but then, in the midst of erupting volcanoes and horrendous storms, the magic that has sustained the planet runs wild. Magicians are destroyed, leaders, including the king are killed, and no one knows what to do. And now it’s up to Blaine and his friends to get back to Dondareth and rein in the remaining magic before all of humanity expires.

Gail Martin has built a wonderful fantasy world in this, the first book of a new series dubbed The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Her writing and plotting is excellent. The characters, including a sect of vampires that are some of the good guys, will draw you into their world and not let go. Blaine especially, appeals. Kestal is a favorite, as is Piran. Connor, who shows up in the story as Dondareth begins its fall, also manages his part in a strong way. I’m already looking forward to the next installment in this series.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2012.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: Monster by A. Lee Martinez

A. Lee Martinez
Orbit, 2009
ISBN 0316041262
Hardcover (ARC)

I am not certain if the following could be called a review of a book or a reaction to a book. Until opening this book, the assumption was, rather naively I now realize, that after over a half century of reading, I had read every genre of book ever published. However, nothing I had read prepared me for this book.

The story opens at Food Plus Mart, a convenience store where a bit of a disturbance is taking place. A Yeti, as in those mythical creatures associated with the Himalayas, is in the store’s freezer, eating ice cream, an entire carton at a time.

Judy and Dave, the two clerks on duty, debate what to do. Judy goes to the store’s office to call Animal Control. Dave goes back stocking shelves. After the phone call, Judy goes outside for a smoke break. She’s there when Monster arrives. He’s a free-lance contractor for the Cryptobiological Containment and Rescue Services. He’s looks normal, except that he has blue hair and skin. Both change every day, and Monster has no idea what color he will be until he wakes up each day.

Anyway, he walks into the store, brains the Yeti with a bat, draws a circle around the creature, and adds some strange looking letters around the circle. In minutes the Yeti disappears, leaving only a “small fluffy rock” inside the circle.

From this beginning, the story becomes…. My reaction is that I had read the script for a fantasy video game between good guys and bad guys, one that includes things, events, morphing creatures, and violence that make the opening scene as described above as tame and sane as a “Dick and Jane” reader.

This book is the sixth one written by Martinez, a native Texan who is described as a fantasy and science fiction author. If asked, I would have said that I had read books that could be described as fantasies or science fiction. However, this book took this reader through things that I never conceived could exist, and truly hope that they do not exist, outside the mind of the author.

Reviewed by Bo Parker, June 2010.

Book Review: Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez

Divine Misfortune
A. Lee Martinez
Orbit, March 2010
ISBN 0316041270

I wept bitter tears when I realized we were losing Terry Pratchett.  While no one author could replace him, A. Lee Martinez is shaping up to be one of the funniest young men in fantasy literature.

His latest book, Divine Misfortune takes place in an alternative world where the mythological gods exist and are still worshipped. They even have a match-up service similar to eHarmony where browsers can find a compatible god.

When Phil misses yet another promotion, he’s thinking it’s time he swore himself to a god.  After all, the guy who got the job he wanted admits he got the job because of his patron god’s favor.  Phil’s wife, Teri, isn’t so sure.  Gods are a lot of work.  They involve sacrifice and an altar. But, when Teri sees a cat that’d been struck by a car brought back to life, she relents.

Phil and Teri select the fortune god, Lucky, a raccoon.  Lucky doesn’t demand much of his followers, so they think.  But, when a Hawaiian shirt clad raccoon shows up at their door with multicolored luggage, they are considering re-considering their oaths.  Lucky’s okay about them reneging.  It’s a lot of responsibility.  He goes away–and the next day is the day from Hell for both of them.

Phil and Teri think all is well when Lucky returns, but the little god hasn’t told them everything.  There’s his ex-girlfriend, the former goddess of love and a blood feud with a blood-path god.  Talk about Divine Misfortune!

A. Lee Martinez will keep you laughing all the way through the book.  If you liked Small Gods and Good Omens from Pratchett, odds are you’re going to get lucky reading this book, too.

Reviewed by Rebecca Kyle, April 2010.