Thursday, April 25, 2013


Rating: 2.5 stars
Length: On the long side of average (373 pages)
Publication: August 1, 2011 from Orbit Books
Premise: Oscar Wendell is a drug-addicted reporter, on the edge of losing his job, but he manages to pull the right strings to wind up on the front lines of the war in Kazakhstan. The Americans and their allies are fighting the Russians for the rare heavy metals that have been discovered there, but living in battle day after day makes the war into a world all its own.
Warnings: pervasive graphic violence/gore, substance abuse and addiction
Recommendation: If you really need a near-future sci-fi book told from the gritty underbelly of the people on the ground, Germline excels at portraying the day-to-day boredom, terror, and search for meaning. If you're not interested in military science fiction, give this one a pass.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kitty and the Midnight Hour:

This one is another recommendation courtesy of Cookie Monstress and Smartypants.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: Tight and snappy (272 pages)
Publication: November 1, 2005 from Grand Central Publishing
Premise: Kitty Norville is a werewolf struggling to keep one foot in the human world with her midnight-shift DJ job. While bantering with her listeners and waiting for good song requests, she accidentally takes calls about the supernatural for her whole shift, and The Midnight Hour is born. The show is an immediate success with believers and skeptics alike, but it also makes Kitty a target among her own supernatural kind and makes it impossible for her life to stay the same.
Warnings: abusive pack dynamics, magically induced sexual coercion, non-graphic recounting of a past rape
Recommendation: If you're looking for brisk pacing and a realistic struggle to find an independent identity, give this one a try; one of its larger series-building arcs doesn't quite work yet, but it's a promising debut. Steer clear if you're easily triggered by sexual consent issues ranging from coercion to outright rape; Vaughn handles it well, but it's not a scene or two you can skim past.

There's a light spoiler in the favorable section, but it's implied on the back flap and is the preview scene at the front of the book, so I'm not overly concerned. If you are, feel free to skip down the red pen section or just to the conclusion.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Spirit Thief

Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: Solid but speedy (356 pages)
Publication: October 1, 2010 from Orbit
Premise: Eli Monpress is the world's greatest thief, and he's using his talents to deliberately drive up the bounty on his own head. His latest scheme is to kidnap the king of Mellinor
Warnings: minor gore
Recommendation: If you're looking for something light and witty with occasional dark moments and a solid groundwork for sequels, this one is a good bet. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Opening lines: dialogue and addressing the reader

Welcome back to the writing advice series on opening lines, in which I try to take apart exactly what makes a first line tick in a way that's likely to make a reader want to pounce on the second line. Part one (focused on exposition and physical movement) is here if you're stopping by for the first time.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

All Men of Genius

Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: Solid and leisurely (464 pages in trade paperback)
Publication: September 27, 2011 from Tor Books
Premise: Violet Adams has dreamed for years of attending Illyria College to refine her skills and inventions, but the school only accepts men, so naturally the solution is to disguise herself as her twin brother Ashton in order to gain admission. Keeping her secret at school is difficult, and that's before taking into account the automata in the school cellar, her feelings for a fellow scientist, a young woman's feelings for her male disguise, an intricate blackmail plot, or the sinister plans of one of the other students.
Warnings: implied threat of rape to a secondary character
Recommendation: If steampunk mysteries are your thing, absolutely give this one a try; it blends science, humor, gender issues, and literary references to create a lightly fun read.

I'm going to be a hair spoiler-brushing about the romantic relationships because they are well-nigh impossible to discuss without names, but there's enough love at first sight that it's easy to call who's going to pine after whom.