Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: A bit longer than average but uses space well (381 pages in trade paperback)
Publication: September 2013 from Delacorte books
Premise: David Charleston remembers the day when Steelheart, a powerful Epic who rules the ruins of Chicago, killed his father. Ever since then, he's been learning everything he can about Epics so he can get vengeance for this father. When he finds the Reckoners, an organization devoted to killing the Epics, they agree to let him help
Warnings: a few deaths are on the gritty side, but nothing too dramatic.
Recommendation: If you're looking for a smooth blend of superhero fiction and dystopian adventure, this may be your thing, but fair warning that it's never heard of subtlety. 

Mild spoilers follow, but I'll try to keep them to a minimum. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Author interview: A Vanishing Glow

Earlier this week I posted a review of Alexis Radcliff's A Vanishing Glow. She's been kind enough to offer an interview to dig more into worldbuilding, the writing process, and even offer some advice for self-published authors who are seeking buzz and reviews for their books.

Without further ado, here's Alexis!

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Vanishing Glow

I'm excited to introduce my review for A Vanishing Glow by Alexis Radcliff. The author provided me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review, and she's also being gracious enough to offer an interview later in the week to talk more about worldbuilding and her writing process. 

Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: Moderately long (343 pages, feels longer in ebook format)
Publication: Self-published via Fatecaster Press October 1, 2015
Premise: In a world ruled by the rising technology of magic turned into mystech crystals, Jason Tern is thrust into political struggle that all his combat experience never prepared him to face. Far across the country, a young engineer finds her resolve and her ideals tested as she plays her own role in unraveling the plot that threatens to destroy them both.
Warnings: graphic physical injury
Recommendation: If you're interested in steampunk, high fantasy, or unconventional sexual mores, this might be for you. There are some grim moments of injury and guilt, but it's to advance the story rather than for cheap horror.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Movie Reviews: The Martian

Opening weekend got away from me, but I really enjoyed seeing The Martian so soon after reading the book and wanted to talk about it.

Rating: B+
Run-time: Quite long (141 minutes)
Release date: October 2, 2015
Adaptation faithfulness: high
The verdict: If you love science-focused sci-fi and have the patience for the impressive run time, this one is absolutely worth it.

I'm doing some compare-and-contrast with the book, so brace for spoilers.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Martian

And we're back, this time with a shorter review style that will hopefully make this work better in the long run. 

Rating: 4 stars
Length: A bit longer than average but uses space well (381 pages in trade paperback)
Publication: originally in 2011 via Andy Weir's blog, now available in trade paperback from Broadway Books
Premise: Mark Watney was thrilled to be on the Ares Three mission to Mars...until the dust storm led his team to believe that he died there and they left him behind. Now he has to survive on a planet inhospitable to life and hope that he can let anyone know that he's alive.
Warnings: lots of swearing
Recommendation: This is amazing from start to finish. Read it if you're willing to put up with some slight slowness at the beginning-- believe me, it pays off. 

Very minor spoilers for the book, but nothing that you couldn't pick up from the movie trailer or from the cover copy of some of the movie tie-in editions (no specific events spoiled). 

Bonus this time around: I'm seeing the movie this Friday and plan to do a short review of that this weekend as well. Here's hoping it lives up the book.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Let's dust this thing off

Hi there!

I've been poking back around on here and realized that I last posted almost a year and a half ago, right before NaNoWriMo took over my life for a little while. I bounce back from that every year, but this time a good distraction appeared-- my existing editing work with Spencer Hill really stepped up, freelance clients popped up everywhere, and this blog took a backseat to writing detailed stuff for authors.

But book reviews have been calling my name recently after I had great luck with several books a in a row, two of my biggest projects are off with the almighty superheroes who do the layout work, and I'd like to see what I have time to write again these days. The break has really brought home what I do and don't miss.

The long reviews were draining me a little-- sometimes I had great points for what worked that I really wanted to talk about and the shortcomings were a struggle, and sometimes the book was so awful that I had four easy paragraphs of issues and almost nothing nice to say. With my old format, I felt compelled to hold things to the same length for each category in the interest of fairness unless the book was over four stars or barely scraping one, but I think it led to some clunky posts.

I do miss the "this is why this works and what other bit doesn't" approach, but for some books it's just one thing that kept me riveted and the only thing I really want to talk about. Going forward, the goal is more free-form reviews at a schedule of more like "when I feel like it, but maybe twice a month" and some posts about the inside aspects of editing. The past few years have taught me a lot about tightening up my critique and jumping blind into styles and genres I didn't feel comfortable editing before, and I'd love to dig into that.

If you have questions about how to ask for what your book needs, editorial pet peeves, or anything in that vein, drop me a line or hit me up on Twitter @redpenreviews.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders

Rating: 2 stars
Length: Lengthy and detailed (446 pages in trade paperback)
Publication: July 2, 2013 from 47 North
Premise: The world has ended, and a new one covered in snow has risen to take its place--humanity has fractured into rival factions that war with each other as well as the Martians. The mysterious Founders, who live in a city surrounded by the deadly mustard gas, have kidnapped several faction leaders in the middle of negotiations. Romulus Buckle, captain of the Pneumatic Zeppelin, has set out on a rescue mission to save them or die trying.
Warnings: deaths in battle, maybe xenophobia. This one is pretty tame.
Recommendation: If you're hard up for new steampunk or different spins on steampunk setting, this could be fun for you. If not, the dialogue and scattered character introductions make it difficult to stay engaged. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Take a close look at the cover on this one if you pick up a copy in person, and then another look after you finish the book; it's extraordinarily detailed.
Rating: 3 stars
Length: Fast and snappy (381 pages)
Publication: April 24, 2012 from Angry Robot Books
Premise: Miriam Black has been drifting across the country for years, trying to run from her visions. Whenever she touches people, she sees how they're going to die, and seeing that dozens of times a day has taken her close to the edge of madness. When she sees that a truck driver is going to die in thirty days while he calls her name, she's forced to decide whether she wants to fight a losing battle against fate again.
Warnings: sex with very dubious consent, gore, torture, dismemberment/mutilation, violent miscarriage
Recommendation: If you're looking for something dark and sharp-edged without an ounce of glamour, this may be exactly your cup of tea. The secondary characters don't always live up to Miriam's strength of presence, but it's a fun quick read.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Way of Kings

I reviewed The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson's young adult debut, for YA Summer a few months ago. I normally try not to do the same author twice in a year, but Misanthrope and Smartypants have been swearing up and down that this one is great for months, so I finally caved....and am very glad I did.

Not to be confused with The Way of Shadows, which is both half as long and half as interesting.

Rating: 4 stars
Length: Well into "imposing tome" territory (1258 pages)
Publication: August 31, 2010 from Tor Books
Premise: The world of Roshar is controlled by the highstorms that destroy the landscape even as they bring light and magic and by the long-forgotten secrets that place everyone in danger.
Warnings: battlefield gore
Recommendation: If you have the resolve for 1200-odd pages and don't mind a slightly slow start, give this one a try. It looks like this might be able to pull off a cast-of-thousands epic fantasy without slowing to a crawl-- the action is glorious, the world manages to be alien but comprehensible, and Brandon Sanderson has a deft touch for writing about ideals without becoming trite. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Night Circus

Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: Long and leisurely (516 pages in trade paperback)
Publication: September 13, 2011 from Doubleday
Premise: Two young magicians were bound into a competition they didn't understand as children. As adults, Celia and Marco find that the staging ground of their competition is a circus constructed of marvels in black and white. They draw people into their game, both deliberately and not so, and aren't sure how to find a way out.
Warnings: child abuse as magical training
Recommendation: If you're looking for something dreamlike and beautiful, this may be your cup of tea, but it's only fair to also mention that this book doesn't have action scenes as such. It's slow and elegant and puzzling, but trying too hard to make it fit with logical sense is a disservice to the book.