Book Review: “Bite Me (A Love Story)” by Christopher Moore
Book Reviews / May 8, 2014

The opening chapter of this book was so insanely fast-paced that I thought, “There’s no way the author can keep this up; and even if he does, I’m not going to like it.” Fortunately, this turned out to be because this is the third book of a trilogy, and there was a lot of background from the previous two books to catch up on. Leave it to me to start a trilogy with the third book! Now I’m going to have to go back and read “Bloodsucking Fiends” and “You Suck”, both subtitled “A Love Story.” One could seriously apply the title “Love Story” to this entire trilogy (as one website actually does). But that wouldn’t do justice to a series of hilarious, raunchy, and sometimes touching books that give a refreshing shakedown to an all-too-earnest genre: the vampire novel.

Book Review: “The Mystery” by Garth Nix and Sean Williams
Book Reviews / May 6, 2014

The third book of the “Troubletwisters” series pits young Wardens-in-waiting Jaide Shield and her twin brother Jack against yet another threat to the wards that protect the town of Portland from the Evil. You know, that force of emptiness that comes from another dimension and wants to take over everything. They have thwarted the Evil twice before. But if there’s one lesson the Evil seems to learn faster than Grandma X and the other good guys, it’s that keeping secrets from the twins makes them vulnerable. And if they’re vulnerable, so is Portland… and the world.

Book Review: “The Monster” by Garth Nix and Sean Williams
Book Reviews / April 28, 2014

The second book in the “Troubletwisters” series finds the small seaside town of Portland threatened by a fragment of the Evil that menaced it in Book 1. At least, so the Shield twins suspect. Jack and Jaide are still a bit jumpy after their narrow victory in their first adventure. The wards are all intact, protecting Portland, and the world, from the all-consuming hunger that lurks outside our universe. But Jack can never forget how it felt to have the Evil invading his mind, tempting him to join it. And neither Jack nor Jaide finds it easy to take Grandma X at her word since she hardly ever gives their questions a straight answer. “Mind your own business” simply doesn’t cut it with these curious kids, even though they know they have a lot to learn about controlling their gifts as future Wardens—and that it is these still unruly gifts that give them the name “troubletwisters.”

Book Review: It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Book Reviews / April 20, 2014

At the risk of sounding too much like a trailer warning for the newest episode of “Law & Order”, I would like to preface this discussion by noting that the themes of “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” may be of a more sensitive nature for some people out there. Craig Gilner is a fairly typical American teenager living in New York trying insanely hard to get in to an exclusive upscale high school that will cement his high-powered future career in stone. But upon entry to the illustrious executive pre-professional high school, Craig discovers anxiety any driven young student is likely familiar with, and unfortunately, it overwhelms him to the nth degree.

Book Review: “Untold” by Sarah Rees Brennan
Book Reviews / April 19, 2014

In Book 2 of “The Lynburn Legacy”, a dark ultimatum looms over the outwardly charming town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. The evil sorcerer Rob Lynburn means to return the town to its old ways, in which the sorcerous few held power over the non-magical many—an arrangement whereby good weather and prosperous fortunes were given in exchange for blood sacrifice. Rob and his sorcerers demand a victim—a human victim, mind you—on the winter solstice, not only to show that the town submits to them but also to ramp up their magical mojo. Standing in the way are Rob’s estranged wife Lillian, the lady of Aurimere manor; his half-sibling sons Jared and Ash, who epitomize every teen girl’s dilemma between the sexy bad boy and the really nice guy; and epitomizing every teen girl, high school newspaper editor Kami Glass and her brave but very mortal friends.

Book Review: “Empire of Bones” by N.D. Wilson
Book Reviews / April 4, 2014

The third and final book of “The Ashtown Burials” features so many characters, doing so many things at once, in so many places, that even quite close to the end I couldn’t believe it was going to conclude the trilogy. I fully expected another cliffhanger, hooking us for a surprise fourth book, à la “Brisingr”. The good news—if you’ll pardon my relief—it really does end here. More or less. In fact, it ends so abruptly that I was taken aback and felt I must have missed something. The battle to save the world from rampaging transmortals on one hand (led by Dracula’s were-dragon brother Radu Bey), and from a creep named Phoenix who intends to repopulate the world with supernaturally engineered super-people on the other, is indeed fought to the bitter end, and the fate of the world is determined. I won’t be a total pig and tell you which way it goes. But I can’t help noticing that there are several loose ends dangling at the end. There really could be a fourth book. It might even be a good idea. [EDIT: Nate Wilson’s wife Heather writes, “There will be a fourth book… Probably 2015.”]

Book Review: “The Journal of Curious Letters” by James Dashner
Book Reviews / April 4, 2014

Atticus Higginbottom, Tick to his friends, is a 13-year-old science geek who gets bullied at school, trips over his own feet, and plays champion-level chess. Few people would guess that such a boy would have the makings of a hero who might one day save the world. Somebody seems to have guessed, however. Somebody calling himself M.G. (short for Master George) begins sending Tick a series of clues, leading to an opportunity to save thousands of lives—but only if he has the courage to face danger and suffering, the cleverness to solve a series of puzzles, and the will to go through with an adventure fraught with spooky weirdness.

Book Review: “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Arthur Conan Doyle
Book Reviews / March 29, 2014

Sherlock Holmes had already appeared in two novels, but his popularity did not really take off until the brief “adventures” collected in this book began to appear in monthly issues of “The Strand Magazine”, from 1891 to 1892. And though there are two novels and three volumes of short stories still to come, these 12 mysteries include some of Holmes’s most memorable and celebrated cases. Few of them are concerned with actual murder or even actionable crimes, and Holmes doesn’t always get his man (or woman). But they are Holmes all over, the Sherlock you sure love, fascinating us (even when his cases don’t) by his keen observation, quick deduction, and encyclopedic recall of the history of crime—so that he can often solve in moments a case that keeps Scotland Yard guessing for days.

Book Review: “Froi of the Exiles” by Melina Marchetta
Book Reviews / March 25, 2014

An “Adult Content Advisory” remains in effect for the second book of the “Lumatere Chronicles”, in which the fate of kingdoms depends on the actions of highly sexed young adults. Even more than in “Finnikin of the Rock”, in which the figurative and literal rape of a kingdom is involved in the tale of a nation divided 50/50 between captives and refugees. But now the people of Lumatere have been reunited; the curse has been broken that separated those within the boundaries from those without; their queen has returned to her people; and a new set of problems has arisen.

Book Review: “A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle
Book Reviews / March 13, 2014

When detective fiction was still in its infancy, in the year 1887, this novel first appeared in an issue of “Beeton’s Christmas Annual”. Just imagine: It was the first anyone had ever heard of Sherlock Holmes! Then a young physician, just starting to stretch his literary muscles, Arthur Conan Doyle here created a character who has become one of the most enduring figures in the popular imagination. The “Holmes” canon now includes four novels and 56 short stories, written over a period of 40 years, but it all began here.