Category: Four Star

This one’s late. It’s late and I’m not particularly happy with it. Largely that comes from this being non-fiction and that not really being my cup of tea reviews wise. I broke my own rule and remembered why I had it. This one’s from the nice folks at First Second, here’s Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World. Enjoy!

Brazen cover

While I mostly enjoyed it, I am probably not the target audience for Penelope Bagieu’s Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World. That’s not a complaint. Brazen is a cool jumping off point for looking more into the women mentioned in it but, given that it is split into twenty-seven sections, there’s not a lot of deep going into any given story. It’s also a bit of a mixed bag on the women included. Several I understood completely, a few I didn’t quite get.

In large part, Brazen feels like it could be a really good source for a middle school history class to pull from. There’s enough information to catch interest in the women featured and enough to get started. I would have liked to have seen a bibliography or an index at the end. I feel like having the sources included could have made this even better in regards to finding out more.

The writing is simple and straight forward which works well with the short sections. The art has a nifty sketchy quality while also having a fair degree of detail. The overall effect is quite functional and makes for an enjoyable read.

That’s ultimately a big chunk of what decided it for me. I enjoyed reading Brazen and I know that a younger me would have enjoyed it more. Not citing her sources somewhere in the book does lose some points for me. So, I’m giving Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World a four out of five.


Thank you all for being patient with me this week. It’s been kind of a rough one, but I think I’ve got a hold on it again. This week’s book is from the folks at This is Myke Cole’s The Armored Saint. Enjoy!

The Armored Saint cover

The Writ teaches that wizardry is foul in the eyes of the Emperor, that it reaches to hell itself to give its user profane powers not meant for mortal man. The Writ teaches that a wizard must be stoned to prevent them tearing a portal open and allowing devils into the world once more. The Order is to be called if wizardry is suspected, to protect the people and knit the damage before it can be worsened. This, Heloise knows by heart. The Order demands obedience, subservience, a bended knee from the villagers who serve it more than it serves them. Heloise had never realized this until a brother of the Order abused her father’s tools and materials, wasting valuable paper just because he could. She had never had reason to question until the Order rounded up her village to help knit the neighboring town, a slaughter worse than any brigands could have visited. The Writ says that the Order is to be trusted and relied upon, they have proven that they cannot be.

Myke Cole’s The Armored Saint is a dark fantasy novella that, in a number of ways, I really wish had been expanded on more.  The world building is fairly solid, though I feel like it could have been worked in more. I largely enjoyed the characters and would have wanted to see more of them outside of the main story conflict.

So, let’s start with the world building. We get a fair amount about the religion of the setting and about the Order and how much of a threat they are, particularly to small out of the way villages like the one Heloise lives in. The Order as a threat and as corrupt is shown fantastically well right from the beginning. There’s enough on the day to day workings of the village and the expectations people live with under the Writ that the society feels functional if also very much like the fantasy novel version of things. Wizardry though, wizardry doesn’t get dug into much given that it is a dangerous forbidden thing and, at least theoretically, the entire reason the Order is hanging around. There are a number of reasons I’d have like to see more with it. It feels like wizardry should play a fairly large role in the rest of the trilogy and setting it up here would make sense. Wizardry also serves more as a thing that we are told more about than shown though, so I’m a little frustrated there. As a side note, more time could have been given to how Heloise’s actions affect other characters or other characters reactions to her going against the Order.

I have similar feelings with the characters. There’s this really well worked out little knot of people who get a fair amount of work and Heloise gets a good amount of development. But then we have the antagonist who exists to be antagonistic and does nothing to suggest he is anything but a flat villain. Since the antagonist is also our face character for the Order that means that the entire group is cast in a flat light of villainy. It wouldn’t be an easy fix, but having an eye towards what people outside of our little knot of characters thinks could have been great. The ranger could have been great for filling in more of the world and allowed the reader to see more of what people think regarding outsiders.

There is a really interesting thing in The Armored Saint, world building wise. While the Order is show as flatly antagonistic and more out to pursue their own wants than actually protecting the people the Writ itself is shown repeatedly as a source of comfort for a number of characters. It sort of keeps the whole thing from sliding into “religion is evil” territory by allowing the common folk to keep their faith in the face of an obviously corrupt and morally bankrupt church militia. It makes for an interesting sort of situational foil.

Related to a lot of this, I wasn’t a fan of the ending. It felt poorly supported and sort of out of nowhere. More page space as a generality would have been helpful leading up to it, particularly given that a lot of it could easily have been more lead into early on. This feels more than anything like a set up book with the ending tacked on because it needed one and the stakes needed to be higher for the next book. The set up itself is good, the world building generally works really well. I’m invested in finding out more about the setting and I want to see where this goes from here. But the end feels like it should have been done sometime during the next book and given time to percolate and build.

At the end of the day it does come down to the fact that I do really look forward to reading the second book. The Armored Saint was solid but ultimately affected by its nature as a novella instead of a full on novel. So, I feel like it earned a four out of five.

This one is for kind of an older book. I’d actually originally stumbled across this back when I worked at the bookstore. I was hoping to find stuff featuring Batwoman and then here was this. It popped up on my BookBub suggestions not too long ago and I finally had a chance to give it a read. So here’s Alexis Hall’s Iron and Velvet. Enjoy!

Iron and Velvet cover

Private Investigator Kate Kane should know better than to take a job from a vampire, much less a vampire prince. She should know, but bills need paying and jobs are a little thing since her partner died. She’s got a dead werewolf outside a vampire’s nightclub, some kind of horrific ooze, and not a lot of clues to go on. Stepping wrong on this case could lead to a war or, worse, her dead but at least she’s got scotch.

I am mostly happy with Alexis Hall’s Iron and Velvet. The main character is by turns enjoyable and frustrating with an implied back story that I really want to find out more about. The back story elements made for awesome character building without devolving into an angst fest. The parts that did get angsty felt tone appropriate and were generally balanced out with a thread of humor.

There were a couple of rough spots early on, with the cast being introduced, where the writing went off the rails a bit. The initial descriptions for our hedonist vampire prince and lingerie model alpha werewolf got kind of male gaze-y and uncomfortable. That said, the resident incubus got similar treatment and this did improve later on. I did find myself much more into the book after the introductions were past and I got into the meat of the story.

The mystery itself unwinds slowly with a couple of false starts and room to get to know the major players while still holding enough back that it’s still a solid mystery. There’s build to a solution but then there’s more. Kate finds herself trying to solve the problem without making any more problems or setting off a supernatural war. Things get a little fiddly there and while I liked the issues it brought up I feel like more could have been done with it. I would probably say that regardless though, I have a tendency of wanting more out of tense situations where the protagonist is out of their league.

That actually leads me to a big positive I had with this book. Kate was noteably out of her depth at various points and, instead of hard headedly going for it anyway, went for help. She had contacts from her previous P.I. work that she could ask for details and she goes to them when she realizes she needs help. It was super refreshing and I would really like to see more of that.

So, that’s kind of where I’m left with this one. There was some stuff I was iffy on at the start, but then the book rolls on and got really fun. There’s a ton of implied back story that I’m really interested in, possibly more so because it isn’t just spelled out for me. Iron and Velvet gets a four out of five from me. I’m definitely going to go find the second one in the future.


Hey all, I’ve got a review for you today. It’s a little late, just due to general life stuff, but still up on Wednesday. So I’m happy with that. Thanks to the nice folks at Tor, this is Mormama. Enjoy!

Mormama cover

Sometimes the past doesn’t like to let go. The Ellis house has been standing for three generations, a rotting shrine to fabulous wealth and festering greed.  The house keeps its own, drawing them back when they try to escape. Lane escaped once, until her husband walked out on her and her son. She had to go back to the house that nearly devoured her as a child. Memory less, Dell can only hope that the card in his pocket will take him home to the Ellis house and a family that could be his. Theo, Theo wants out, away from the elderly Aunts who haunt the house like a trio of ghosts, away from his mom being stuck unable to care for either of them, and away from the thing that whispers to him at night. Away from the Mormama who tells him about the house’s tragedies and the darkness that presses in on its residents. Sometimes the past doesn’t like to let go. Sometimes it refuses to.

Southern gothic isn’t a genre I’ve done much with before. Based on Kit Reed’s Mormama, it’s not quite horror, and it’s not quite genre literature, but somewhere between the two. There’s a lot of almost character versus atmosphere going on and, more than that, a character versus past thing. I really dug both of those aspects. The downside to how atmospheric and into how trapped the characters feel by their situations is that the book can be very easy to put down.

So, what do I mean by that? Part of the atmosphere for the book was this sort of floating hopelessness. It seeped into little corners of the characters lives and pulled them more tightly to the house. Lane wants out as soon as possible, but she can’t find a job to allow that. Dell wants his past back, wants to know where he came from, but he’s so desperate for it to be this one version of him that he can’t accept anything else. He also can’t bring himself to use the one source he has that might tell him everything. Even the Aunts are trapped in their past and the bitterness they have over merely being caretakers of the house rather than the belles they had been in their youth. It’s both something that slows down the book and cuts its readability and also, ultimately, really cool.

That’s kind of my feeling on a lot of the book ultimately. It’s a slow read with a lot of bits that don’t feel super important to the story but that absolutely build the characters and atmosphere. Which makes for an interesting read. I do feel like some of the supernatural bits could have been tied in better, but that’s a little thing for the most part. The fairly slow pace over can make the ending feel a little too fast, but that’s not a huge deal, that little too fast can also make it feel cataclysmic. It’s a scale thing I guess. I actually don’t have a ton to say about this one so on to the score I guess?

Like I said earlier, southern gothic isn’t a genre that I have a ton of experience with. That’s part of why I don’t have a ton to say about it. There’s also a lot of almost fiddly bits that would probably count as spoilers, so I’m not talking a ton about those. That said, I did quite enjoy this book. While it can get slow at points that works for the overall feel of it. I’m giving Mormama a four out of five and would read Kit Reed again.

So, house keeping post is coming up later in the week. I’ve been falling behind lately and want to address that. Switching over from that, I do have a review for you all today. Thanks to the folks at Tor, who provided me a review copy, here’s The Empty Ones. Enjoy!

The Empty Ones cover

You’ve seen them before. You’ve even seem the charming strangers with nothing behind their eyes. Carey’s been fighting them since the seventies. Kaitlyn just found out about them a couple weeks ago. To being hunted endlessly by the empty one that nearly killed them, they’ll have to track him down first. Meanwhile a blast from Carey’s past turns up and she doesn’t seem interested in helping save the day.

Robert Brockway’s The Empty Ones is a decent follow up to The Unnoticeables and a solid book in its own right. It’s definitely a middle book, though one that has the courtesy of tying up its own story before jumping for the next book.

It being a middle book is sort of where my big complaint comes from. With The Unnoticeables there was an awareness that there had to be more creepies than just what the protagonists were dealing with, but it was pretty well all small scale stuff. It was local, almost personal, to the protagonists so it felt huge and each thing they stumbled into built it up more and reinforced how out of their depths they were. This book doesn’t have that. It physically takes the protagonists out of their usual haunts and has them chasing the monsters. Having that makes the whole plot feel smaller, or less, even as the stakes are higher this time around.

Part of what makes this an issue is the difference between what the reader knows from the 2013 sections and what the reader learns from the 1978 sections of the book. In the first book, the split timelines worked really well because it allowed the reader to see something in action and then learn about it or vice versa. The parallels aren’t nearly as clean in The Empty Ones, so we get a lot of new information in the past that doesn’t really seem to inform the present or the previous book. It can feel  awkward even when it does land right, making scenes feel off kilter and characters feel not like themselves.

That’s a big part of what I meant when I said it’s solid in its own right but only a decent follow up. On its own, The Empty Ones has a lot of the same energy and punch as The Unnoticeables. The characters are still easy to care about. The monsters are still that extra spark of creepy. Even the new things that don’t totally work in context of the previous book are really cool if taken as part of a standalone novel. Reading it as a sequel though leads to comparisons and little rough spots throughout. The wonderful bittersweet ending to The Unnoticeables is suddenly fractured because we don’t have to wonder how Carey got from there to being nearly alone. Sammy Six’s story matters a whole lot less now because of new details. What’s lost is a lot of character stuff, and not necessarily little stuff at that.

On its own this is a really fun book. The antagonists are far stronger than the heroes, so the heroes have to be clever or just runaway. The characters feel very human or that perfect degree of just slightly wrong. The tone is by and large spot on. Emotive scenes hit the right chords, generally at the right times. And ultimately, while I like it better on its own than as a sequel, it makes me want to keep reading. I want to see where everything goes.

So, where does this leave The Empty Ones? As a standalone book it would be nearly a five out of five. The issue is that it follows a book that I would more than happily give a five to and, while it does well on its own, it doesn’t stack up to the book it follows. So that earns The Empty Ones a four out of five.

I’m something approaching  early this week. I wanted to get this posted the day it came out instead of  waiting until tomorrow. I also wanted to do something to apologize for being so late last week, so I’m posting a review tomorrow as well. Bringing this to you thanks to NetGalley, here’s a review of DC Universe Rebirth: Batgirl volume 1: Beyond Burnside. Enjoy!

Batgirl vol 1 Beyond Burnside cover

Batgirl is on vacation, and Barbara Gordon is headed to Okinawa in hopes of interviewing Chiyo Yamashiro, the Fruit Bat, a vigilante from the 30’s. Even on vacation Barbara manages to find trouble in the form of her childhood friend Kai and the three “students” hunting him down. Can she figure out what Kai’s gotten himself into and how to save him or will Batgirl flunk out?

I feel very out of my depth reviewing this. It’s been since Gail Simone left the Book that I’ve read a Batgirl comic and I’ve missed a lot. That said, while there’s some thing’s I’m not a huge fan of, I find myself really liking this iteration of Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl. Hope Larson does a good job with the characters and a more than reasonably good job with the story.

Let’s actually start with that. What makes this Batgirl different than what I’m used to? She feels a lot younger for one, that’s one of those things I’m not real big on, but it also lends a lighter feel to the comic so it balances out. She’s apparently running her own company as well, a company that makes enough that she can travel around the world pretty easily, so that’s something I’m curious about. I’m also interested in what’s going on in Burnside, which seems to be Batgirl’s Bludhaven, her Gotham in a way. So a lot of that actually makes for a really good jumping on point. The character is familiar enough not to alienate a reader who’s either lapsed or someone who knows her from something else, but also fresh enough to feel new.

The flipside is that the arc that Beyond Burnside covers is very standard Batfamily stuff. The new old friend, Kai, just happens to be Barbara’s roommate at the first place she stays. He gets attacked while they’re out seeing a festival and meeting Fruit Bat, thus introducing our villain. Necessary coincidences happen as required. It’s a good building point, and I’m curious about some of the characters, but it does feel like a safe introduction kind of story. This being the first arc for the DC Universe Rebirth for Batgirl, that’s not a bad thing just very safe.

I’m not familiar with Rafael Albuquerque’s art. It’s not my favorite thing, and I do feel like it’s one of the weaker parts of the book. This is mostly due to the lack of backgrounds throughout the book. Having a single solid color backing the panel can be a great way to reinforce the emotion of a scene, if used sparingly. I feel like it’s overused here, which makes it lose its effectiveness and just feels a little off. Albuquerque’s faces can be fantastically emotive, though they can also slip into something just slightly off, something about the angling in some of the close-ups or just going a little too far with an expression.

I enjoyed this a good deal, it was fun, it did the job of introducing the world at large to keep my interest past this arc, and the one-shot story at the end was a good way to tie up loose ends and cool down from the arc. Batgirl Volume 1: Beyond Burnside gets a four out of five from me, it would have been a five if not for the few issues with the art.

Not posted on a Wednesday, but hey, I didn’t skip this week. Quick reminder that the giveaway for The People’s Police Giveaway is still going until midnight Sunday the 19th. This book’s one that I bought rather than being send to review. So, enjoy!


Beautiful Remorse is your new favorite band. You couldn’t say why if asked. You couldn’t even really say anything about the lyrics. But their music does something for you. To you. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard, and their singer, Airee MacPherson. She’s fantastic, completely out of this world.  Strange things keep happening with each new track they release. Beautiful Remorse is your new favorite band, and your favorite band cannot save you.

Scotto Moore’s Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You: a tale in ten tracks is a quick fun read that’ll pull you along right to the end. The first two thirds of the book is solid genre fiction, but then it gets to a certain point and everything starts to feel kind of rushed. Think of it a little bit like a love letter to the Cthulhu mythos through the lens of modern internet culture.

There are a few bits that needed more attention throughout the book. Without that, the end isn’t a total big lipped alligator moment, but it does still feel under supported. I’d have liked more exposition on Aimee’s plan or the music itself, though the narrator’s limited knowledge goes a ways towards explaining that away.

My other big issue is with the characters. I legitimately cannot remember the narrator’s name or much of anything about him. The same goes for most of the characters that aren’t Airee, they sort of get lost in her or the music and just don’t come up again. I could easily say that this was a purposeful thing and that a big part of the point was a collective nothingness for humanity. It still doesn’t really work for me in the long run though, at the end of the day I’m still very much invested in character over plot.

More than anything, Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You reminds me of a B movie. Despite its faults, the story is aggressively readable and fast paced. It’s eyes off the action to build tension, which works well in a lot of ways. This is a book that could have been a lot better with a little work, but it doesn’t need it to be a fun book. If that makes sense at all. It’s fun, it’s fast, and at the end of the day I still really enjoyed it.

So, where does that leave us? While Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You has some issues, I still had a ton of fun with it. So, from me at least, it gets a four out of five.

Not a ton to say here. Thanks to the nice folks at Crown Books, I’ve got a review of the final book in the Thrones and Bones trilogy for you. Enjoy!


Thianna and Karn have lost the Horn of Osius, key to controlling the wyvern and all dragon kind. To keep its power from being misused they’ll have to journey to Thica, the country Thianna’s mother fled years ago, and face down an entire empire. They won’t be alone though. A battle is brewing that will determine the very fate of the empire and, possibly, our heroes as well.

Thrones and Bones: Skyborn by Lou Anders is definitely an interesting read, and a fun one as well. It builds on the previous books well. It has higher stakes, as benefits the last book in the series. It still keeps its balance between Thianna and Karn really well while expanding the cast as well.

So, with the first two books in the trilogy I had a lot of the problems I tend to with most kids or young readers’ books I review. The first one was very black and white in its morality, the heroes were good because they were the heroes and the villains were evil because they were the villains. The second book did better, but still projected its eleventh hour new hero pretty hard. That’s standard in kids’ fantasy, but it does get old, which is something this one does a fairly mixed job on. We have an empire that’s crushing other city-states and forcing them to do its bidding, that’s how it’s done and how it has been for as long as anyone can remember. We have the city-states not wanting to work together because of old grudges. Both are kind of a wash early because it is a ton of new stuff all at once, but then we get into it more and it works.

We also have some party friction from the last book that gets worked though, I really appreciate that bit. As well as I feel Karn and Thianna work as a team, seeing them having to work with new characters and deal with new situations is one of the strong points of the book. The expanded cast did take some getting used to, mostly just because it split the story more than the first books did, but that helps give the story a greater feeling of scope.

The added cast does have one big downside that I can think of. While it’s great for adding scope to the story, it also has the effect of leaving what should have been important character moments out for more minor characters. A little more focus on what was going on with the big villains would have been great. It also has the effect of introducing and then completely leaving out representative characters for the city-states that didn’t get involved in the plot. That feels like a missed opportunity more than anything.

So, where do I sit on Thrones and Bones: Skyborn? It solved a lot of the standard kids’ book problems the first two had, though it still has a few. Those are mostly pacing related, and nothing really big at that. I would have liked to have seen more build to the final confrontation; it was pretty standard for the series on that front. As evidenced by the rest of the review though, I enjoyed the read. This is one of the few series that I not only enjoyed myself, I’m also getting the first one for my younger cousin. So, again, where do I sit on this one? I think it earned a four out of five.


So, things should be back to normal posts wise here soon. I will of course be rambling about things that aren’t books, but that’s just business as usual. There’s also a review. The book was sent to me for the purposes of an honest review by the awesome folks at Angry Robot. Enjoy!

Waking up not remembering the day before sucks. Waking up having lost months, with your girlfriend turned into a tech zombie and your team thinking you sold them out? So much worse. Riko’s reputation is shot and the only people who could help her aren’t so willing to help. To find out what happened, or even just make it until tomorrow, she’s going to have to fight smarter and harder than ever.

K. C. Alexander’s Necrotech reminds me very much of Shadowrun Returns, with it’s used future feel and the sharp delineation between the corporate haves and the everyone else have-nots. That just on its own doesn’t really do the book justice though. There’s a thread of desperation to the first third, with Riko trying to figure out just what happened to her and Nanji. Everything Riko’s built in her life has fallen apart, seemingly overnight, and she has no idea what’s going on or what to do about it. That works fantastically well.

Less fantastically, the pacing gets really slowed down in the middle section of the book. That can make it feel like a bit of a slog at times, especially since Riko keeps going over a lot of the same topics repeatedly. Given that one of those problems, Malik Reed, both feels like he’s being set up as a later romance interest and really doesn’t go anywhere as a character the slow down can hurt the book a lot. I really didn’t enjoy Malik as a character or Riko’s reactions to him. While Riko being bisexual is a part of her character, the power difference and back and forth between them really didn’t work for me.

That said, aside from the slowdown, Necrotech is fast, violent, profane, and utterly enjoyable. It’s got a great feel for scenery when it needs it. The tone stays on point for most of the run. And I really enjoyed the mix of futuristic technology with everything being so worn down and broken.

So, where does that leave Necrotech? I’m still pretty frustrated with the middle bit and Malik, but I also really want to read the next one. So, it gets a four out of five from me. There are issues, but I want to see how they’re worked out more than I am frustrated with them.

So, day one of posting stuff for Halloween. I’m pretty excited, not gonna lie. Even the spooks around the apartment have quieted down some, either they’re getting used to us or they’re getting ready for Halloween too. But, regardless, on to the review!


Fear Street is cursed. Since Shadyside’s founding, the town and the street bearing the name of its most infamous residents have been haunted by murderers, vengeful ghosts, and all manner of horrors. When an innocent girl is burned as a witch, the first link in a chain of vengeance that will span centuries is forged. A curse is cast, and a legend begins.

The Betrayal begins at the end with Nora Goode staring in horror and disbelief as the Fear family mansion burns down, taking her beloved Daniel with it. The story, however, begins over two hundred years earlier in the village of Wickham in the middle of a witch scare as several girls have already been burned at the stake. A girl, Susannah Goode, is framed for witchcraft by her beloved’s father, Magistrate Benjamin Fier. She and her, also accused, mother are innocent. Her father however is not and, after having his family taken from him and being robbed by the Fier brothers, William Goode vows revenge and places a curse on the Fier family.

Right off the bat, this is pretty gory for a kids’/YA book, and that fits the Fear Street Saga trilogy pretty well. It also does a good job with build, even knowing how things ultimately end there’s this sort of looming sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I think a good part of that is that our protagonist for most of the post betrayal book, Mary Fier, had nothing to do with that whole situation. She hadn’t even been born yet and is just a girl. Even knowing what her father and uncle did, having her as the protagonist makes the rest of the Fier family look better because she cares for them.

Unfortunately, while I do adore Mary as a protagonist for what she does for the story, The Betrayal is still very much set up for the other two books. The ending also feels a bit rushed, like Stine knew where his start was and where the ending was but he only had a certain number of pages he was allowed. It gets the point across, but it also feels pretty cheesy.

So, I know that my review and score here are ultimately pretty heavily influenced by nostalgia, but even rereading this as an adult I enjoyed it a great deal. So, The Betrayal by R. L. Stine gets a four out of five. Let’s see what happens next.