The Day the Sky Fell: The Yellow Hoods, Book #5 by Adam Dreece

The Day the Sky Fell (The Yellow Hoods, #5)The Day the Sky Fell by Adam Dreece
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is it. The last of the series. Do Tee and her brave friends triumph against the Lady in Red, the Piemans, the Fare, and all the other foes arrayed against them? Can a group of teenagers best experts in intrigue?
Of course I’m not going to tell you. Read the book and find out. The Day the Sky Fell had the fastest plot of the whole pentalogy, I really couldn’t put it down. I still wanted a flowchart for all the character relationships, but at least there weren’t any new ones added. Again, some violence and bloodshed, but little else. Dreece has even revealed one of the characters is gay, in the sort of offhand scene that makes me dream of one day having a society where homosexuality isn’t a big deal. It just is. I’m happy to see that Dreece agrees with me, and put his beliefs where his mouth is. Or rather, where his writing utensil is.
Despite Dreece closing The Yellow Hoods with this book, not all the loose ends are tied up. A few of the antagonists could certainly stage a comeback some years down the road, and Dreece mentions possibly starting a second series around a more mature Tee and her friends. I wouldn’t say no to that. It’s been a good run.

View all my reviews

Beauties of the Beast: The Yellow Hoods Book #4 by Adam Dreece

Beauties of the Beast (The Yellow Hoods, #4)Beauties of the Beast by Adam Dreece
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maybe you thought there weren’t going to be new characters in the penultimate book. Maybe you thought you could stop updating your cast flow chart. Finally laminate it and put it up on the wall to use as a reference. Well put that frame back in the box. Dreece put in more people. Never fear, the delightful Tee, Elly, and Richy are still with us. As are many of the old favourites from previous installments. Plus all the backstabbing, plotting, and double-dealing we’ve come to expect from Dreece’s writing. But wait, there’s more! Airship battles! More explosions! Rocket packs! Here I thought shock sticks and mechanical horses were enough excitement. Dreece disagreed, and we all benefit. Something he didn’t add more of was bloodshed. The level of violence has been pretty consistent since it was upped in the second book, and there isn’t much else to warn for. This is a really decent series, and I’m looking forwards to seeing how everything gets tied together in The Day the Sky Fell. Stay tuned!

View all my reviews

All the King’s-Men: The Yellow Hoods Book #3 by Adam Dreece

All the King's-Men (The Yellow Hoods, #3)All the King’s-Men by Adam Dreece
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just when you thought you knew all the characters. Dreece keeps stuffing them in, with more betrayals and flashbacks than you could shake a shock-stick at. If your memory is anything like mine, it isn’t the gripping plot alone that keeps you from putting these books down. It’s the fear that when you pick it up the next day you won’t remember who is on what side anymore. Tee, Elly, Richy, and Nikolas Klaus haven’t left us, nor have the Cochon brothers from Along Came a Wolf, but the leaders of the Tub and the Fare join the Pieman family in seeing just how many people can fit into a 340 page steampunk romp. (Answer: about 30). I wonder if Dreece reads much Russian literature? Tolstoy would be proud.

It seems that Dreece uses All the King’s-Men to start tying the history of Eorth with its present political climate, as he brings the series to its climax. Tee and the Yellow Hoods are joined on their flight through the wilderness by new friends and questionable leaders as they flee the agents of the Fare and other rogue factions bent on toppling the government and taking over the world. Again, some bloodshed, gunshots, and deaths. Suggestions of child abuse and mentions of kidnapping, but written from the perspective of the (safe) survivor which takes out much of the sting. An even mix of female and male characters. With an even mix of strong and weak traits. Take a spy novel, add teenagers, set it in the medieval era and then hose everything down with a good spray of steampunk and you’d have yourself The Yellow Hoods series. It’s good stuff.

View all my reviews

Breadcrumb Trail: The Yellow Hoods Book #2 by Adam Dreece

Breadcrumb Trail (The Yellow Hoods, #2)Breadcrumb Trail by Adam Dreece
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is where things start to really pick up. Tee, Elly, and Richy are joined by a steadily increasing number of characters as Dreece weaves several parallel plot lines; chapters on missing children in the previously peaceful town of Mineau tag team with secret societies plotting to steal steam engine plans in a universe where inventing has been outlawed. If you had a tough time putting down Along Came a Wolf, clear your calendar when you start Breadcrumb Trail. You can put it down if you really have to, but there aren’t exactly breathers built into the plot. It’ll be a struggle. This was also the book with the strongest fairy tale influences, thanks to the plot line with the disturbing “Ginger Lady.” The fairy tale influences in the first book seemed to revolve around names and titles rather than having those old stories come to life, or be rewritten in a novel way. Compared to the first book, this one has more violence. Actual bloodshed, gun shots, deaths. No racism or sexism. Child abuse and kidnapping are present in this installment, however. Only hinted at, but they are there. Having finished the series, I can say they are mentioned again later in the series, but only in passing in two other books. Dreece writes a good story without resorting to sensationalism, and his non-stop plots make for a quick read.

View all my reviews

Along Came a Wolf: The Yellow Hoods, Book #1 by Adam Dreece

Along Came a Wolf (The Yellow Hoods, #1)Along Came a Wolf by Adam Dreece
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

With Along Came a Wolf Dreece launches a steampunk-fairy tale young adult fantasy series with ample excitement, danger, and plot twists to keep you engaged until the last page of book five. We follow the spunky Tee, Elly, and Richy as a visit from a mysterious messenger to Tee’s grandfather plunges the four of them into a world of intrigue and danger. The action barely pauses until the last page. The characters are pretty well fleshed out and a good balance of gumption and terror. There isn’t a single thing for me to offer a content warning about. Very little violence, no sexism, no racism, nothing. Only the editing could have been better. There are some sentences that could have been more polished, and a few times where Dreece used the same word in two adjacent lines, which is kind of a pet peeve of mine. However, I will say that I started book two Breadcrumb Trail immediately upon finishing Along Came a Wolf and the editing has much improved, so if it bothers you push through it and the rest of this page-turner of a series will be your reward.

View all my reviews

The Sea of Monsters: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2 by Rick Riordan

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sea of Monsters is one of those book/movie duos where they only have the slightest resemblance to each other. The basic plot carried through, but the specific events diverged so greatly you might as well have been watching another movie all together. As per usual, the book is better. Riordan makes different people his heroes, instead of it being only Percy all the time. He recreates the Odyssey more closely than the movie has. Percy and Annabeth’s quest is a young adult, modern version of the Odyssey. Which is interesting and cool! I love the magic of reading a new story for the first time and seeing woven through it motifs from famous tales. You don’t get that same rush watching the movie. Those motifs are left out.

Beyond the usual fisticuffs, sword fights, and chariot races, with mild violence, there’s not much to warn for in this book. It’s a quick, easy read that zips along from demon dodgeball to chariot race to sea battle, without asking too much of you to come along.

View all my reviews

Silence Fallen: Mercy Thompson #10 by Patricia Briggs

Silence Fallen (Mercy Thompson, #10)Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Faithful readers or people who know me personally will already know how much I adore this entire series. I will try to restrain myself from squealing with giddiness over Briggs’ newest offering. The way I did when it showed up in the mail. It’s gonna be tough though! Silence Fallen might be the best book in the series to date. It’s got all the usual goodnesses Briggs stuffs her books with; sassy comebacks, a great heroine, fist fights, danger, evil monsters, and clever ruses. Mercy has been kidnapped by a group of vampires and spirited away. She manages to escape. But winds up stranded in an unfamiliar city with no money or clothes. Meanwhile Adam, her husband and the leader of the werewolf pack, gathers allies and travels to negotiate with Mercy’s kidnappers. Neither he nor Mercy know who this group is or what they want. Or why they’ve chosen Mercy as their hostage. And there’s another change: Briggs has structured her story differently. Rather than following a strictly chronological layout, she switches between Mercy’s viewpoint and that of Adam’s, swinging through past and present in the timeline of the novel. Readers already accustomed to books that play with timelines in this way will have no trouble following it. For those to whom this is new territory, Briggs has prefaced each chapter with a tiny blurb from Mercy explaining where in her timeline this portion falls. It’s very easy to follow, so if you don’t typically read books that do this, don’t let it scare you off. This technique is new to Briggs as well, so she puts effort in to making sure it’s as straightforward as possible. I’m hoping to see more of it in her next books and to see her expand her repertoire. It’s always exciting when an author you love tries something new! But as long as she keeps writing, I’m happy.

***I’m not sure why I left this out when writing the review originally, but Silence Fallen does have some content warnings. There’s Mercy’s kidnapping, martial arts battles with guns, knives, and descriptive blood shed, a few violent sequences involving vampires, a car crash, and a couple violent deaths. Please exercise caution if you are sensitive to violence!

View all my reviews

The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1 by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young adult books make for a speedy finish! It didn’t hurt that I could not put this book down. Riordan made quite the page turner. It took me a couple of chapters to get through the whole “main character is a whiny pre-teen” but once Percy gets his quest that pretty much fades away. Thankfully. There are a couple of issues that prickled me at the beginning of the story, but by the end Riordan had presented them in a different light and they troubled me less. The overall plot is pretty straightforward. A somewhat troubled youth who has bounced from school to school throughout the states finds out that his dyslexia and ADHD are actually caused by the fact that he is the son of a Greek god and a human woman. He doesn’t know which one, although he finds out later. Lots of characters straight out of Greek mythology, and the main story is an Epic Quest™ complete with cross-country trip and descent into Hades. Mystery, prophecies, betrayals, everything you’d expect to see in a Greek myth. There is a fair bit of violence, obviously all directed against youths, so if you’re sensitive to that proceed with caution. There’s also a couple of deaths. One within the context of the story and one that predates it, and if memory serves me correctly only one of these shows up in the movies, so be aware if you’re reading the book after watching the movie you might still be in for a surprise. Aside from that, the movie stayed pretty true to the original story. And neither was too shabby.

View all my reviews

Tower in the Crooked Wood by Paula Johanson

Tower in the Crooked WoodTower in the Crooked Wood by Paula Johanson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this ebook in exchange for a review

This was a really good story. It’s quite short, but is well-crafted enough that it doesn’t feel like the ending just dropped out of the sky, or like pieces are missing. The characters are interesting without feeling contrived, and the descriptive passages of the scenery are lovely. I felt as though I were hiking the BC coast alongside Jenia don Dela don Tared, who, with her mouthful of a name, is Johanson’s heroine. And an arborist. We need more stories where arborists are the heroes. Very unique. Jenia has left her home and is searching for a wizard who is building a tower. But that is all she knows. Who, or why, or even where are questions to which she doesn’t have the answers. Excluding a love interest, this story has all the elements of a classic quest narrative. A journey. A goal. Strangers in strange lands. People who help and those who hinder. Danger and chases and terrifying beasts. All those good things.

There are still some editing issues, but of the three books I read by Johanson this one had the fewest, and most minor, errors. Overall the construction was pretty solid and it made this book much easier to follow. It’s a good read for a fantasy lover looking for something quick and straightforward, but still satisfying.

View all my reviews

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 edited by Rich Horton

The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 by Rich Horton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What makes a great story? Plot? Suspense? Characters? Dialogue? Each of these is present in The Year’s Best. Some of the stories are perfect snapshots of an unseen world. Others develop like flowers: bud swelling and expanding, bursting open into an explosion of petals, and then the whole thing folding in on itself. Dark, violent tales like Vonda N McIntyre’s Little Sisters and And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of the Dead by Brooke Bolander. Those are balanced by cheerful, sweet stories such as Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer. My favourite story was Catherynne M Valente’s remarkable The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild. Valente’s writing is rich and delicious; she takes the dictionary, rips all the pages out and replaces them with her own. The countries in Valente’s world are described and delineated by their colours: blue, red, yellow, orange, green, and purple. Violet Wild has grown up in the country of purple with her wealthy parents on their estate, but after a tragedy occurs when she is watching the herds one day she abandons her home to search for healing in the country of red. Her journey takes her through each of the other colours and their exceeding strange customs and wildlife. Valente deftly straddles the line between an overwhelmingly complex fantasy, and one you can flip through with only half your brain registering sentences. It’s a truly magical universe.

The rest of my favourite titles were (in no particular order):
Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer
-a helpful AI discovers its favourite thing about people. LGBTQ characters.
Mutability by Ray Nayler
-wherein people live centuries but don’t get better at chess.
This Evening’s Performance by Genevieve Valentine
-explores the possibility of robots replacing actors.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro.
-wealthy art collectors vie to create the most perfectly beautiful painting. Only male characters, fails the Bechdel test.
The King in the Cathedral by Rich Larson
-classic fantasy with an exiled king who plays war games with his robot guard. LGBTQ main character, fails the Bechdel test.
Hello, Hello by Seanan McGuire
-a scientist and her deaf sister are fine-tuning the ASL-speech translation program they created, when they discover it has unexpected abilities. LGBTQ main characters, majority female characters.
The Heart’s Filthy Lesson by Elizabeth Bear
-a bitter scientist denied funding to find ancient aboriginal settlements on Venus strikes out on her own. LGBTQ characters, disdains binary gender systems.
The Deepwater Bride by Tamsyn Muir
-Lovecraftian fantasy with a twist. All female characters, LGBTQ.
Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan by Ian McDonald
-the lost diary belonging to a famous artist is finally found. LGBTQ characters. Gets my award for most complicated title.
The Two Paupers by CSE Cooney
-an author and a sculptor team up to stop a coup in the fairy realm.

Content warnings for the following:
And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of the Dead by Brooke Bolander
-a mercenary and a programmer take a job rescuing a mob boss’ kid whose consciousness has gotten trapped in cyberspace. As the title suggests, there’s violence and gore. Fails the Bechdel test.
My Last Bringback by John Barnes
-a neuroscientist specializing in rebuilding the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers reconstructs her own memories. Not just violence, but reveling in the commission thereof.
Please Undo This Hurt by Seth Dickinson
-a burned out paramedic looks for a reason to keep going. Depression, some gore, and suicides. Fails the Bechdel Test.
The Game of Smash and Recovery by Kelly Link
-a brother and sister on a lone planet discover the real reason for their existence. One instance of violence against a child.
Little Sisters by Vonda N McIntyre
-a galactic conquerer returns disgraced and bankrupt to the company that bankrolls his expeditions, where the chairman makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Coercive reproduction/childbearing scenes. Only male characters.
Drones by Simon Ings
-a dystopian future where bees and women don’t exist. Respect and honour are shown through spitting in someone’s mouth and drinking pee. Only male characters.
The Ashtrakhan, The Homburg, and the Red, Red Coal by Chaz Brenchly
-a group of men join an experiment to try to contact an alien species. Only male characters. Drug use.
Asymptotic by Andy Dudak
-in an era of space travel, speed traps have evolved to stop violations in faster-than-light travel, in case they collapse the universe. One instance of murder. One female character, fails the Bechdel test.
Acres of Perhaps by Will Ludwigsen
-a washed-up writer of a once popular television series reminisces. Alcoholism. LGBTQ characters, fails the Bechdel test.
Consolation by John Kessel
-an activist questions her support for a cause. Bombings.

Other Interesting Notes:
The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club by Nike Sulway
-anthropomorphized animals grapple with finding value in life, knowing their species is going extinct. LGBTQ characters.
Unearthly Landscape by a Lady by Rebecca Campbell
-a governess remembers a student’s childhood and her unsettling artwork. All female characters.
The Graphology of Hemorrhage by Yoon Ha Lee
-a magician and her trainee work to cast a spell to crush a rebel army. Reverses the traditional mentor-trainee dynamic: male trainee and female mentor.

Stories that didn’t fit in other lists:
Capitalism in the 22nd Century, or Air by Geoff Ryman
-twin sisters embark on a long-awaited escape to a different planet, when one backs out at the last minute.
Time Bomb Time by CC Finlay
-a university student experiments with social activism by creating a bomb that loops time.
Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu
-a pauper smuggles messages into Beijing’s upper class regions.
Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker
-AI provides homecare for dementia patients
The Daughters of John Demetrius by Joe Pitkin
-a mysterious wanderer searches Mexico for the children of a god
Twelve and Tag by Gregory Norman Bossert
-Ice miners on Jupiter’s moon Europa swap stories and play word games in the bar to unwind after work

And that is it! If you want any more information on a particular story, you’ll have to read this yourself.

View all my reviews