Book Review: “Sky Raiders” by Brandon Mull
Book Reviews / July 25, 2014

When Cole and his sixth-grader friends troop down the basement steps to view a spooky Halloween house of horrors, they’re more worried about whether they’re too old to go trick-or-treating than about being kidnapped. But the basement is already nearly full of caged kids waiting to be forced down a ladder in the floor. Cole manages to hide until everybody has gone down the hole, wondering how anyone could think of getting away with kidnapping so many kids at once. Then he follows them. His plan is just to find out where the kids are being taken, so he can report back to the police. But the hole in the basement floor proves to be a portal to another world—and it’s a one-way trip.

Book Review: “The Last Werewolf” by Glen Duncan
Book Reviews / May 17, 2014

Jake Marlowe gets the news in the first sentence of this book that he is the last of his kind. At age 200, he is only middle-aged for a werewolf. But his days are numbered. Solitary hunters by nature, werewolves have been unable to… er, reproduce… ever since a sort of sterility virus ensured that no one would survive being turned into one of the lycanthropic undead. And though the vampires envy their ability to have sex—indeed, they hardly stop shagging between full moons—it has been ages since there was a female werewolf to mate with. So long, in fact, that Jake has never met one. The last time he experienced true love was with his mortal wife, who unfortunately was one of his first victims, along with their unborn child, 167 years ago.

Book Review: “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” by Arthur Conan Doyle
Book Reviews / April 12, 2014

Already in the table of contents of this book, we encounter a mystery. The Kindle edition that I read includes 11 Sherlock Holmes adventures in this book, as do most American editions and some British editions of this book. The very first edition, however, contained 12 stories. Fear not; “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” will eventually turn up, most likely in “His Last Bow,” where it has been added to most American editions. The reason for this has something to do with censorship and public morals, but I won’t go into that here. What you want to know about this book is that it is the second set of short stories featuring Holmes, collected from the monthly installments that Conan Doyle published in “The Strand Magazine” between 1892 and 1893.

Book review: “Brisingr” by Christopher Paolini
Book Reviews / January 30, 2014

Many things discouraged me from reading the third book of the Inheritance Cycle. There was the backlash against my mixed review of Book 2, “Eldest”—almost, but not quite, the harshest feedback I have received. There was the disappointment of the film based on Book 1, “Eragon”—a hint that there would be less pressure from fandom in general to stay on top of this series. And finally, there was the thickness of this book, which was supposed to be the finale of a trilogy—whereas, in spite of its length, it turned out to be the third movement in a quartet.

Book review: “Hero” by Mike Lupica
Book Reviews / December 15, 2013

When New York sports journalist Mike Lupica first turned toward writing Young Adult fiction, it was mostly in the form of sports-related novels, such as Travel Team, Heat, and Miracle on 49th Street. And he’s still writing them. You may be surprised at the length of his list of titles, and whether part of a series or a standalone novel, each one is primarily about sports—with only a couple of exceptions. One of them is a murder mystery. And the other is this story about a kid who discovers that he has super-powers.

Book review: “Changeless” by Gail Carriger
Book Reviews / December 13, 2013

In Book 2 of the “Parasol Protectorate,” a racy supernatural riff on Victorian steampunk, something has taken the fangs out of London’s werewolves and vampires. No worries! Lady Maccon (formerly Miss Alexia Tarabotti) is on the case. In her role as the preternatural adviser to Her Majesty’s Shadow Council—a role she earned by being the only soulless, supernatural-powers-neutralizing, respectable married lady in town—she gate-crashes a reunion between her werewolf husband and his former pack, somewhere in the southern Scottish Highlands.

Book review: “Soulless” by Gail Carriger
Book Reviews / December 6, 2013

The first of (at present) five books in a series titled “The Parasol Protectorate” introduces a world that combines Victorian-era Steampunk with vampires, werewolves, and ghosts. It’s a romantic comedy of manners with a broad streak of sensuous eroticism, ripe for an Adult Content Advisory. How ripe? Let me tell you. One day on my way to work, while listening to the audio-book expertly narrated by Emily Grey, I had to turn off my car stereo several blocks short of my destination. No more needs to be said.

Book review: two YA baseball novels
Book Reviews / October 16, 2013

More than five years ago, I reviewed “The Boy Who Saved Baseball” by this author, who is totally not the actor from Three’s Company. In that review, I said that I planned to read more of his books in the near future. I was true to my word, but only to the extent that I have had this book and another by the same author on my shelf all these years. It’s no reflection on my feelings for baseball fiction (which are generally warm) or for this author (intrigued, respectful). It’s just an occupational hazard of being a book junkie whose shelves are jammed two books deep with titles I’ve been planning to read for ages. So many books, so little time!

Book review: “Escape from Castle Cant”
Book Reviews / September 26, 2013

This book is a sequel to “The Secret of Castle Cant”, which I read many years ago. Like the sequels to many other books I enjoyed, I have had this one on my shelf for so long that I forgot what the original book was about and had to re-read my own review of it to refresh my memory. I understand there is a third book in the series, titled “The Black Arrow of Cant”, published in 2007.

Book review: Two religious interpretations of “Harry Potter”
Book Reviews / September 12, 2013

Today, if you ask me what I think about the relationship between “Harry Potter” (or other fantasy tales) and religion, I will say something like: “I’ve noticed that many fantasy tales are open to a wide variety of religious interpretations. Personally I just read them for the entertainment.”