Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review- Still Water by Justin Macumber


Kyle Mason escaped his hometown of Still Water about two seconds after he turned eighteen. Now, six years later, he's received a text from his younger sister, Taylor. Something weird is going on in town. People have changed, turning cruel. Their mother is nothing like her usual self. Their father is spending more and more time at the coal mine that is the whole reason the town exists. In fact, all the miners seem to be spending all their time there.

Now, not only are the miners hands black-stained, but their eyes are turning black, like the ore they spent their lives mining. There's something down in the mountain that's doing this to them. It's been there for a long time. And after milennia, it's finally time for it to emerge.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Coal is the hard, black heart of the mountain town of Stillwater, West Virginia. But, far beneath it lies something much darker, an evil beyond time, waiting to rise and bathe the world in blood and fire once more. When unwitting miners dig into its tomb, only Kyle – Stillwater’s prodigal son – and paranormal investigator Maya stand between humanity and Hell. Time is short and evil runs deep in… STILL WATER.


Still Water could have happened last week, or it could be happening even as we speak. It's obvious in the setting that Macumber intends to have the events happening pretty much as the reader reads it... and to my joy, he didn't bother with any of that "writing it present tense" junk. After finishing this book, I could easily picture myself seeing an article about the events in the paper, or on a news website, or something like that. Having it happening right as I'm reading it definitely ramped up the scary factor.


Macumber is very easy to read and to listen to. I listened to this one through and was treated to an awesome performance by Veronica Giguere. This is the third Macumber book I've read (Haywire and A Minor Magic) being the other two, and I have to say his dialogue always feels very natural. He demonstrates a firm grasp of how people talk, especially when he makes a geographical distinction to his characters (like the West Virginian cast of Still Water, for example.)

My Thoughts

I'm still fairly new to the horror genre, and while I didn't get any real terror chills from reading Still Water, there was a definite creepy factor to it that I enjoyed. The thought of some ancient godlike creature looming under a mountain in nearby West Virginia (I live in Tennessee) brought this book close to home. Being from a nearby state made the characters hit close to home, too. I've known people like those in the book. And the fact that one character actually hails from Memphis, TN just made this all the more real. It really set the stage for me.

I don't feel like there was any real lag to the book, nor did it move too quickly. Macumber has a great sense of pacing that kept this book the perfect length for the story he was telling. That can be surprisingly hard to do. The issues his characters deal with (including racism and homophobia) firmly set the stage. He's built a great foundation for his story, in a world where his characters are familiar, if not necessarily comfortable. Then again, I can't see how anyone my age or younger could really be comfortable in Still Water, so great job there!

Would I Recommend This Book? Sure! If nothing else, Still Water will leave the reader with a sense of unease and hesitancy to believe that everything in the world is A-okay. It might not make you wet your pants, but it will definitely cast a shadow over you for a while. I give Still Water a cold-skinned 4 of 5 stars.

For more information on the author, visit

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Book Review: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux


Strange things happen at the opera house, and there are more than a few people involved that are paranoid. A ghost is among them, making strange things happen. They see him everywhere. And now, one of the scene changers has been found dead. As the new owners take over the opera house, they believe it is all a joke with them as the butt of it. But a newly-emerged singer, and the young nobleman who is in love with her, are about to find out just who is behind all these strange occurrences. The ghost's lair is deep below the opera house. Will they make it out with their love intact? And worse, will they make it out alive?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from Goodreads

First published in French as a serial in 1909, "The Phantom of the Opera" is a riveting story that revolves around the young, Swedish Christine DaaƩ. Her father, a famous musician, dies, and she is raised in the Paris Opera House with his dying promise of a protective angel of music to guide her. After a time at the opera house, she begins hearing a voice, who eventually teaches her how to sing beautifully. All goes well until Christine's childhood friend Raoul comes to visit his parents, who are patrons of the opera, and he sees Christine when she begins successfully singing on the stage. The voice, who is the deformed, murderous 'ghost' of the opera house named Erik, however, grows violent in his terrible jealousy, until Christine suddenly disappears. The phantom is in love, but it can only spell disaster. Leroux's work, with characters ranging from the spoiled prima donna Carlotta to the mysterious Persian from Erik's past, has been immortalized by memorable adaptations. Despite this, it remains a remarkable piece of Gothic horror literature in and of itself, deeper and darker than any version that follows.


It's kind of hard not to be familiar with the concept of the Phantom. I mean, there's a musical and a movie (of the musical), and there have been other movies in the past featuring the character. The Phantom is a culture icon. Who doesn't recognize the mask?

I've seen the musical on Broadway. I've seen the movie version of the musical. I actually read Susan Kay's retelling, Phantom, some years ago and loved it. Not sure why it took me so long to get around to the original. If you're familiar with the Phantom and his story, and you haven't read the original, I would say do it. It's very interesting to get to the foundation of the characters, especially the Phantom himself.


The Phantom of the Opera was originally written in French and later translated to English. Because of that, I cannot say for certain how true this translation is to Leroux's writing style. Still, the version I listened to was very clean. I wouldn't have known it wasn't originally in English. My knowledge of the French language mainly consists of baguette, bonjour, and how to say I'm a cheese omelette (a highly useful phrase in any language) so I cannot really judge the style on this novel as the author wrote it. Based on the prose of the version I've now experienced, I would say it must be beautiful... but that's just a guess.

My experience with this novel is very positive. It was easy to listen to (and would be easy to read). It's very accessible.

My Thoughts

As I mentioned, I'm very familiar with the story of the Phantom, mostly from a more in-depth character study from Susan Kay's adaptation, which really expands on the original. But getting into the real building blocks of Christine Daae, Erik, Raoul, and the other characters was an eye-opener. It was wonderful, almost spying on the characters in their native habitat. The characters of Raoul's older brother and the Persian are so often overlooked that it was great to see them in much more detail, to really experience them and their roles in the narrative.

The humanity of the Phantom is truly exposed in this original novel, especially when compared to the movie version starring Gerard Butler. The truth of Erik's identity comes out in this, and we see his weakness and vulnerability so purely at the end of the novel that I hate it gets overlooked or cut in many other adaptations.

Would I Recommend This Book? Highly. When it comes to familiar stories, like fairy tales or old stories like this that have been told and retold so often, it's always a good idea to go back to the roots. I give The Phantom of the Opera an ingenious 4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman


Unlike most convicts, Shadow has a life waiting for him once he's released: a wife and a job. But when he's released a few days early, it's only to learn that his wife and best friend were killed in a car accident. Now there's no job and no life waiting for him. What else does he have now?

That's when Mr. Wednesday picks him up. He'd got a job offer, one that will introduce Shadow to a world he's never known existed: the world of the American Gods. Any creature that has been worshipped lives on in America, brought over by immigrants. Vishnu, Buffalo, Ibis, Jackal-- they're all here. And they're fading, their followers now worshipping technology and the media. Mr. Wednesday plans to go to war with these new gods and reclaim his worshippers.

And he needs Shadow to help him do it.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Released from prison, Shadow finds his world turned upside down. His wife has been killed; a mysterious stranger offers him a job. But Mr. Wednesday, who knows more about Shadow than is possible, warns that a storm is coming -- a battle for the very soul of America . . . and they are in its direct path.


If you're wanting a little tour of America, this is it. You're not going to get a real serious overview of how things are here (not even a real idea of how things were in 2001, when this book was originally published) but it's an idea. America is a melting pot, and it only makes sense that those people who came from elsewhere in the world brought their beliefs with them. Many of them are still observed. The idea behind American Gods is definitely an interesting one.


Gaiman's writing style is clear enough, but I felt like the narrative of American Gods was a little too meandering and evasive. The words themselves are beautiful. Gaiman writes wonderful prose, and his characterization is top-notch. He really did his research for this novel, and it shows.

My Thoughts

They say that playing with a laser pointer with your cat can be very frustrating for the cat-- that since they can never really catch it, it makes the cat very tense unless you give it something it can really catch at the end. I felt very much like the cat through the entire book, like I just couldn't get what was really going on. That isn't a good thing. Bits and pieces here and there really snagged my attention, but I felt too out of the loop for the majority of the novel to really enjoy myself, and this coming from someone who's always had an interest in mythologies.

I will admit that the epilogue and post-script gave a bit of that "catching" feeling to me, but it was too little too late for my taste.

Would I Recommend This Book?  Not really, but that's just a personal preference thing. American Gods is very well-written, but it didn't suit my own tastes like I'd hoped it would. The concept for me was better than the execution, and it hurts to say I didn't enjoy this novel. If you like to read, I would say give American Gods a shot. It's been called "an instant classic" but it isn't one for me. It might be for you. I give American Gods a clunking 3 of 5 stars.

For more information on the author, visit

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Massive Book Review: The Statford Chronicles, Books I-V by John Walker

Time has gotten away from me. I'm more than a little appalled at how far behind I am. I could make excuses of NaNoWriMo, Thanksgiving, and Sinterklaas (yes, it's something I celebrate because one of my best friends is half Dutch) but I the truth is I've just been lazy. So to make up for being lazy, here's a monster book review.

The Statford Chronicles, Books I-V: The Sincerest Form of Flattery, In the Details, The Blame Game, That You Do So Well, and All Good Things.

SPOILER ALERT in advance- the reviews of later books may give spoilers to earlier books. If this doesn't bother you, awesome! You're like me! If you don't like spoilers, than just stop after the first book. They will be in order.

I also want to note that later on in the reviews, I forego the Context and Style portions of my reviews. That will become the norm for series in the future. The first book will have context and style for the author and series, but afterwards, you'll get synopses and my thoughts.


The Sincerest Form of Flattery by John Walker


Someone is killing the gods. Okay, maybe not the actual gods, but their effigies on Earth. Even Zeus has gone down, and electrocuted, of all things. Sounds fitting. But it isn't. The murders are specifically geared for the gods themselves, and only Thomas Statford, private investigator, can solve this one. Statford is the only buffer between the mortals and immortals that there is, so it's his case. He's got to find out who's killing the gods, and why, before the deaths make the whole world rip apart.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Life was simple for private detective Tom Statford. Sure, being the Keeper, the first, last and only line of defense between gods and mortals could make for interesting times, but a mundane existence in south-eastern Virginia kept things on the boring side of life. Boring, until bodies appear with all the trademarks of ritualistic homicide. Now, the Keeper must not only stop a psychopath, but also the end of the world.

Easy enough, if the killer doesn't find him first.


It's pretty clear that Walker has set The Sincerest Form of Flattery in a time and setting he's familiar with: here and now. Here... being Virginia. The comfort Statford shows with his surroundings will make any reader feel at home. Statford could easily be the weird guy from down the street that no one knows really well, except that he seems, in many ways, to be an everyman.

Tom isn't. He's got plenty to make him special. The point is, he could be any guy you just passed walking in a store or on the street today. That, I think, makes this a great setting.


Walker writes simply. That's not an insult. He writes in a way that makes anyone able to read this: though because of the language, this is not meant for youngsters. He clearly has a good sense of his characters' personalities and tendencies with actions and words.

My Thoughts

There is one small issue I have with The Sincerest Form of Flattery. Some conversations jump too fast from one statement to the response. I'm not talking about a quick back-and-forth. I'm talking out-of-the-blue reactions that seem too unexpected. It doesn't happen often, but the two or three times it happened left me feeling unbalanced.

Actually, the pacing of the whole book did seem a little rushed, leaving me with that feeling of having to keep up. I don't know if that was intentional or not, or if Walker was maybe afraid to really explore what he's built. There is a wonderful foundation here, but I think the book could have bene half again as long and still been a quick, pleasant read. It was almost too short for the story he was trying to tell... but that just left me wanting more.

Don't think those small issues are going to keep me from moving on to the next book in the series. There are some wonderfully humorous moments, little tidbits in writing, turn of phrase, and details that left me so glad I picked up this book. In the first chapter alone, I had at least five good laughs. Fans of mythology and the supernatural, this is a good one for you. Walker has done his homework on this one, and it shows. He  puts a new twist on otherplane life, bringing it into the now, that is brilliant. And he paves the way very well for the next book. I'm chomping at the bit to start it.

Would I Recommend This Book? Yes. I actually agonized over what the star rating would be for this book for quite a while. Even while reading it, I was sort of keeping a tally in my head-- something I don't normally do. I'd have a rating picked, then something would jar that rating up or down. There was one particular moment that made it plummet, because I thought it was completely out of character for not only Tom, but for the whole book.

I never should have doubted Walker or Tom. Note to self: don't keep a tally again. I don't know what was going on in my head, but I was dumb to do it. I give The Sincerest Form of Flattery a burger-eating 3 of 5 stars.

In the Details


Thomas Statford, go-between of the mortal and immortal realms, works as a private investigator on the side. Part of his role as Keeper is to be unbiased, showing favoritism to no deity or religion over another. That fairness is about to be put to the test. The Devil himself, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, Father of Lies, has just shown up at Tom's office. The archangel Michael is after Lucifer, and he has no idea why.

It's up to Tom to find out just what's going on, and when it's uncovered that someone has murdered a priest, claiming the Devil made him do it, Tom has to figure out just who would want to frame the Devil.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Private detective Tom Statford has a problem. A priest has been murdered in Hampton Roads, Virginia. That's bad. His killer is claiming the Devil as an accomplice, sending the forces of Heaven after the fallen angel. That's even worse. Lucifer comes to Tom to proclaim his innocence, which makes Tom's life more interesting than it needs to be, and he's the only one who can prove the Devil didn't make the killer do it. But who would believe the Prince of Lies?


Like with the first book in this series, we have a solid foundation of setting in the here and now. I don't know the area of Virginia that Tom Statford calls home, but I'm certain one could go on a "Statford tour" of the area and find the descriptions flawless. Walker has set his detective firmly in his reader's comfort zone-- and that only works to make things more intense.


I don't know if this is going to sound bad or not, but believe me it isn't meant badly. Walker improved greatly in his writing style and storytelling between The Sincerest Form of Flattery and this novel. The issues I noticed in the first book, namely the pacing and my perceived fear at really exploring his creation, are gone. In the Details was wonderfully paced and immersive. I got lost in the novel, much to my delight.

Once again, Walker's humor shines through in some wonderful moments that keep the overall tone of the book balanced. Tom couldn't survive in his role as Keeper without maintaining some sense of humor, and the character's glibness helps keep the reader right in that zone with him.

My Thoughts

The first book, The Sincerest Form of Flattery, was not a bad book, by any means. In the Details blew past its predecessor in quality. I liked the first book. I loved the second. I'm eager to see how Walker develops as an author. He's definitely one to keep your eyes on, which is great, because there are two more in the series that are out as of Nov 2014, when I'm writing this review.

This was one book I didn't want to put down. The threads of mystery were well woven and tight, making a great cable of a mystery that came to a crux that was highly satisfying. Let it be known that Walker is not at all afraid of putting his characters through Hell. (Pun intended). He kicks the crap out of them, and it's great! His cast is lovable, and that includes the Devil himself. Okay, maybe he's not lovable, but he's a character I hope to see again. The teaser at the end of the book hints at some awesomeness to come, and I am ready for it!

Would I Recommend This Book? Definitely! Walker grew immensely between books one and two. That growth shows nothing but promise as his writing career continues. I'm eager to see more from the mind of this wonderful man. He's got a wonderful character in Tom Statford, and the adventures he's having suit him well. I give In the Details a Cajun 4 of 5 stars.

The Blame Game


Tom Stanton is back, and being the go-between for mortals and immortals is never dull. But now, he seems to have walked right into a PI noir film, when SHE walks in.

She's gorgeous and in terrible danger. Someone is going to kill her. She knows this, but she doesn't know who or why. The gods seem to be involved-- in fact, a god recommended she come to Tom for help. She only has four days before she dies, but will that be enough time for Stanton to stop whoever is forcing a god to kill mortals?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

In the third outing of private detective of the gods Tom Statford, a woman shows up in his office claiming to have been murdered. What's worse is she's a target of a fire god. With four other bodies involved, along with Chinese organized crime, Tom has to figure out who killed the girl, and who is using a god as an assassin. No big deal, right? Before it's all over, this case will give the phrase "May you live in interesting times" a whole new meaning.

My Thoughts

Walker has done it again, this time bringing in some old stereotypes for laughs. It's perfect with the level of geekiness we've come to expect from Tom Statford. The foundation built through In the Details and The Sincerest Form of Flattery is being played on now, giving us more insight into some of the side characters in Statford's circle, specifically Susana and Luc (who I really want to know more about and hope to see again).

Don't think the stereotypes of the brooding PI are taking over and replacing the gods vs mortals background. There's plenty of the supernatural to be had. We've got people controlling gods here, and we get a little exploration into Chinese deities, which is exciting to me, as most of my experience is in the Greek and Roman myths. Add in a few good twists, and Walker's got a recipe for a good book, well suited to continuing the Statford Chronicles.

Would I Recommend This Book? Sure thing! There's plenty to be had, and this more than lives up to In the Details. So much goes on that I can't begin to guess where Walker will go with the next installment. Still, each book is complete into itself, so there's no infuriating cliffhangers at the end of each book to make a reader angry. He does set a great stage to want to come back to, though. I give The Blame Game an identical 4 of 5 stars.

That You Do So Well


Thomas Statford, Keeper of the Conclave, go-between of mortals and immortals, has saved the world more than once. He's stopped people trying to become gods and even cleared the Devil's good name when he was framed. He's earned a vacation, a vacation to the Big Easy, where he is finally going to get married.

With his future in-laws, his mother, sister, and her family all together in New Orleans, it seems like things are going to be perfect. Now the only problem is whether any of them will survive until the day of the wedding. Something is going on, and people are dying, their insides liquefying as they clutch voodoo bags-- bags meant to protect.

Something's is rotten in the bayou.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

The Big Easy isn't easy for the private detective of the gods. It's been a long time coming. Tom Statford is in New Orleans, ready to tie the knot with the love of his life. Things are going well, which was his first clue things would go badly. The second clue was the pair of people dying in front of him, killed by the darkest magic. The third clue? A missing god with power over the dead. It's a race against time as Tom must find out who's keeping the dead restless and the living in fear.

My Thoughts

If you know me, you'll know I'm not that into zombies. But That You Do So Well isn't a zombie book. Sure, we star in-media-res, and even though Walker doesn't say it, it's pretty easy to guess that the swarm attacking Statford and his crew are zombies. But this still isn't a zombie book. Sure, there might be zombies in it, but they're not the real problem. They're a small element in a much bigger scheme, and I think Walker made a great choice in that. There are a TON of zombie things out right now, all trying to do zombies "differently". Walker has acknowledged the trend but takes things on a more important route: their purpose. There's a REASON for the zombies, and it's part of one person's plan for, of all things, world peace. How brilliant!

On the whole, this is a wonderful book. Walker has shaken things up for Tom by taking him out of his comfort zone of Virginia and set the book in New Orleans. Not only that, but we have an almost wholly new supporting cast. Sure, we've seen Tom's mother and his fiance Susana in previous books, and his sister and her family have been mentioned, but we're missing Tom's resources back home. The story he's built in the Big Easy doesn't deal with Mardi Gras, which is nice, but we still get deep into the flavor of the area, and there's just enough mystery and voodoo to make this a truly intriguing story.

Would I Recommend This Book? Absolutely! Walker keeps outdoing himself with every book in this series, and That You Do So Well gives us a new level of "weirdness" as Tom would call it. Add in a refreshing sprinkle of the tired (in my opinion) zombie trend, and you've got a great book! I give That You Do So Well a Creole 4 of 5 stars.

All Good Things


Tom Statford has called it quits. After his family was threatened and used against him only days before his wedding, he's decided he's done with the Conclave. He's finished being their Keeper. The Conclave, though, seems to not have gotten the memo. For six months, god after god has continued to bother him, trying to make him do the job they say he should.

But after this most recent demand for service (from Zeus, no less), someone has made an attempt on Tom Statford's life. No, it was a warning. Does the Conclave want him so badly that they'll threaten not only him, but his sister, his mother, his new wife? What does he have to do to get the message across, other than not die?

Tom Statford is not having a Merry little Christmas.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

When Tom Statford quit being the Keeper of the Conclave, he thought things would get a little easier. He could have a real life with his new family and no longer need to deal with problems of divine origin. 

However, a failed assassination attempt sends Tom back into the world he left behind. With friends dropping like flies, and family out of reach, Tom discovers nothing lasts forever.
They always come to an end.

My Thoughts

Ho. Lee. CRAP! This book blew my mind. Seriously. Walker has really taken the series in a place I hadn't expected, and that was absolutely amazing! Parts of it were a little dull and circular, but considering how lost and completely clueless Tom is in this investigation, it doesn't come as a surprise. He's floundering, desperate for leads, and that left me with a sense of loss, too. It's all too easy to meld with Tom as a reader, not that it's a bad thing. Walker's character is a delight, and even as he gets more and more outraged with his situation, his words and actions are completely understandable.

And that ending! No spoilers, but I will be reeling about that ending for the rest of the day. I am ready for book VI to come out... which sucks, because this installment just came out a week ago. I hate waiting. But I can tell you the second I hear that the next one is coming out, you will know. And the second it comes out, I'm reading it. Whatever comes next will undoubtedly be a novel worth waiting for!

Would I Recommend This Book? Oh, hells yes! Walker has twisted and turned his series in a whole new direction, and it has blown my mind. Seriously. I don't have much in words to describe it. Just. This book. This. Book. I give All Good Things a snowed-in 4 of 5 stars.

For more information on the author, visit

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Book Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson


Joel can afford to attend Armedius Academy only because he’s been granted full tuition by the principal. His mother cleans the campus, and his father used to make chalk for rithmatists, before he died. Joel, sadly, is not a member of the small secondary school within Armedius. He’s not a Rithmatist, despite always wanting to be one. The fact that he’s obsessed with rithmatics and has a natural mind for the geometry that forms the core of rithmatics doesn’t matter. Joel isn’t one of them.

But this summer, Professor Fitch lost a duel that forced him to tutor students, and Joel manages to get himself assigned as Fitch’s research assistant. Now, Joel has a real chance to learn some rithmatics. He just has to get past the other student Fitch is tutoring, a struggling, highly annoying rithmatist named Melody. Add in the new, arrogant professor Nalazar, who won that duel against Fitch, and the fact that rithmatist students have suddenly begun disappearing from campus, and suddenly, Joel has his hands full with more than just trying to find a way to become a rithmatist.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings—merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery, one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in worldbuilding, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world.


It’s difficult to lock down a real time period in The Rithmatist, but I’d put my guess sometime in the late 60s or maybe in the 70s. Don’t quote me on that, though. It could well be set in the last few years. Thanks to the novel being set in an alternate America featuring a form of geometric chalk magic a few centuries old, it’s impossible to say if social norms would have progressed the same way and times they did in our reality. But considering Joel ends up at an ice cream shop where a scoop is expensive at nine cents, and where there’s a little hubbub about one of the clerks at Armedius being a woman, well… it’s easy to surmise if impossible to confirm.

The alternate America Sanderson built is highly intriguing, and I wish I knew more about it. We don’t have 50 states. America is a series of islands, 60 of them, including the warfront of Nebrask, the California Archepelago, Georgiabama, and East Carolina. I got such flutters of laughter whenever I heard another tidbit of the United Islands’ names. Georgiabama made me outright laugh the first time I heard it. It struck me as a nice little snack that still had the familiar ring of home to it (though I don’t live in Georgia or Alabama.) There’s a pleasant creativity to the islands that is perfect for the story Sanderson wrote.


My only experience with Sanderson before reading The Rithmatist was with his closing out Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I’d never heard of him before then, and I think I must have been living under a rock or something. A lot of me wondered what Sanderson’s own voice was like after reading Wheel of Time, because the only experience I had was of him writing someone else’s characters and world. I found some bits of writing that were obviously him, but so much of it still sounded like Jordan, I didn’t have a lot of insight into his style.

Yeah, his voice was there. In reading The Rithmatist, I was able to reconcile the two. Sanderson’s voice comes out clear in Wheel of Time, if The Rithmatist is any indication. Sanderson has an exciting clarity with just a tad of quirkiness to his writing style. He’s easy to follow while not being simplified. There is much to this novel that is character-centric, and the people populating this novel are spot-on. One could take just about any line of dialogue from the novel out of context and still know who said it. The three main characters, Joel, Melody, and Fitch, are easiest to identify. There’s no blandness to Joel as a protagonist. He’s definitely a teenage boy, and Sanderson nailed the qualities that make it easy to pin down his age. I guess that’s probably because Sanderson was once a teenage boy himself.

My Thoughts

Having read his closing of the Wheel of Time series, I was eager to get to know Sanderson on his own turf, and The Rithmatist was a good first choice. The magic system of rithmatics is intriguing, with the chapter openings often describing diagrams of different defenses or outlining a tidbit of rithmatic theory that ends up coming into play during that chapter or later ones. This was an excellent bit of extra understanding that prevented infodumps and keeps the reader from being lost in the rithmatic practices. That was masterfully done.

I’ll admit that, this having a mystery to it, I started guessing who I thought “done it”. I don’t normally do this, but sometimes I just can’t help being struck with a theory about how things will pan out. I ended up suspecting three people. One was merely on principle, one because I really thought he was the culprit, and the third because I was second-guessing my confidence in that second guess. Sanderson ended up completely flipping the mystery on its head for me, and while the very back of my head was shouting, “I knew it! I knew it!” I was pleased that I’d been duped. He’s avoided cliches with this mystery, but doesn’t rub it in if the reader was wrong.

The Rithmatist was an utter joy to experience. The depth of the magic system and how it ties in to religion and the history of this alternate America are well-thought-out and permeate the world. It makes sense. This is one of those novels where the protagonist may not always get what he wants, and neither does the reader… but both can be okay with that.

Would I Recommend This Book? Most definitely. The Rithmatist is YA, but anyone can enjoy this. Sanderson tells a tight and intriguing story with some great comedy, a great mystery, and fully fleshed-out characters you can’t help but want to spend more time with. I give The Rithmatist a chalk-drawn 4 out of 5 stars.

For more on the author, visit

Book Review: Shadows on Snow by Starla Huchton


Rae and her sisters lost their kingdom to an evil king. Now, their stepfather is at it again, trying to take over another throne by deposing another queen and her son, Prince Leopold. Only by offering Leopold her help, along with that of her six sisters, can Rae keep history from repeating itself? Only a mirror, an apple, and a glass coffin are standing in her way.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

“Once upon a time, a dark evil crept into my kingdom, stealing my loved ones and the happy life I knew. The world turned against me, and I swore to become stronger, to keep myself safe.
Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince, hair dark as ebony, skin as pure as the freshly driven snow, and I became the only one who stood between him and death.
Once upon a time, our stories intertwined, and now, healing my heart may be the only way to save us all from the evil that threatens to destroy what little we have left.”


If you want to read Snow White like you've never read it before, this is the book for you. Huchton has made some amazing changes to the surface of the story while keeping the core of it true. You'll recognize the key points: the apple, the description of the "Snow White" character, the coffin, even the mirror. I came into this knowing that it was a new retelling of Snow White, but even if I hadn't, I would have recognized it. It's a great take on the tale, and Huchton more than does it justice.

And even better, it is a genderflipped version. We get the girl saving the prince, but it's not done in a way that makes the genders imbalanced. The prince is a man, definitely, and is strong. Rae is a powerful young woman, worthy of the adventure she's up against. She has her weaknesses, too, which makes her journey all the more powerful.


I've read a fair few of Huchton's works now (you can find one here) and she has one of the most pleasant styles I've come across. She's straightforward and fun, keeping things vivid and engaging from start to finish. In Shadows on Snow, her little homages to the "traditional" fairy tell style, specifically in the beginning and end, work as a wonderful gateway between the real world and the story itself. This is a book you can just sink into. It's comfortable in being a familiar old story, but still new enough to keep the attention peaked.

And the dialogue... some of what these characters-- particularly Rae-- say is true to life. I had a moment where I just wanted to Z-snap at someone after Rae made a comment. It was brilliant. Huchton has really tapped into some good material for YA readers.

My Thoughts

This book is a real winner and a joy to read. I don't know if I can attribute this to the story itself or just the fact that Snow White isn't a favorite fairy tale of mine, but I really didn't care overmuch for the Snow White parallel character, Prince Leopold. That isn't to say Leopold is unlikeable. Quite the opposite. Then again, this wasn't really his story. This is Rae's story, and she is a heroine to relate to and admire. She's definitely a teenager with an opinion and skills, and reading things from her perspective is a blast.

The world Huchton created around the elements of the original story are rich and full, making this a world with lots more stories to tell. I hope to see more fairy tale retellings set here. This is an excellent read for young adults and not-so-young adults.

Would I Recommend This Book? Definitely. If you like fairy tells, this is a great one to add to the collection. It's witty, thoughtful, and full of surprises that revitalize the original fairy tale. I give Shadows on Snow a salted 4.5 of 5 stars.

For more information on the author, visit

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Book Review- Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff


Andy Gage is only a few years old. The body he's in, though, is almost thirty. Andy is just one of many personalities that inhabit his body. he's the newest, the one intended to run the body, while his "father" Aaron, runs things inside, keeping the personalities under control. Things are actually going well, until Andy gets a new coworker. Penny is clearly a multiple, just like Andy is, but Penny has no idea. At the behest of their boss, Andy reluctantly starts trying to bring Penny into awareness of her other sides. Helping Penny-- or Mouse, as she's usually called-- find herself leads Andy on a path that could tear down the order inside his own head.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

“I suppose I should tell you about the house…The house, along with the lake, the forest, and Coventry, are all in Andy Gage’s head, or what would have been Andy Gage’s head if he had lived. Andy Gage was born in 1965 and murdered not long after by his stepfather…It was no ordinary murder: though the torture and abuse that killed him were real, Andy Gage’s death wasn’t. Only his soul actually died, and when it died, it broke in pieces. Then the pieces became souls in their own right, coinheritors of Andy Gage’s life…”

Andrew Gage was “born” just two years ago, called into being to serve as the public face of a multiple personality. While Andrew deals with the outside world, over a hundred other souls share an imaginary house inside his head, struggling to maintain an orderly coexistence: Aaron, the father-figure, who makes the rules; Adam, the mischievous teenager, who breaks them; Jake, the frightened little boy; Aunt Sam, the artist; Seferis, the defender; and Gideon, the dark soul, who wants to get rid of Andrew and the others and run things on his own.

Andrew’s new coworker, Penny Driver, is also a multiple personality—a fact that Penny is only partially aware of. When several of Penny’s souls ask Andrew for help, he reluctantly agrees, setting in motion a chain of events that threatens to destroy the stability of his house. Now Andrew and Penny must work together to uncover a terrible secret that Andrew has been keeping from himself…


Who knows what the heck is going on in the minds of those around you? We could all have more than one soul in our heads, for all we know, and some of us just deal with it better than others. Who didn't have imaginary friends as a kid, or try to pretend they were someone else? How often have you seen someone behave completely out of character (for them) and wonder if you really knew them at all? Don't think I'm making light of dissociative personality disorder. I'm not. It's just the closest I can personally come to identifying with it. I don't know if this is how it really is for people with such a disorder, but it's how I imagine it is. This book does, at least as far as I can tell, a good job of portraying what having multiple personalities could be like.


The changes in POV between Andrew and Penny were skillfilly done. There could so easily have been confusion, with all the different souls in their bodies, but I didn't have any trouble keeping track of things as the book went along. If Andy is in the "POV position", it's 1st person. If we're behind Penny/Mouse, it's 3rd. We get to see their different personalities from their eyes, but the changes in person-narrative make it easy to remember whose body you're in.

The writing itself is easy to follow, very thought-like. It was honestly like being in my own head... at least, in how thoughts progressed along with the events.

My Thoughts

Set This House in Order was recommended to me by Cat Rambo. What a recommendation! This is a masterful piece of work and bears rereading. I plan to let it settle in my head for a few months before I pick it up to read it again. Ruff demonstrates an amazing talent for setting up great moments of climax as early as the first few paragraphs of the book. It's stunning, really, how perfectly the book reflects itself.

I spent a lot of time reading this forming theories of what was going on, what connections between characters (or souls) were, and how things would wrap up. I was almost unerringly wrong. Every time.

I LOVED it. This is a book of reveals, not only for the reader, but for the characters. There is one reveal about halfway through the book that really got me, but looking back, the clues were there. It is so subtly done, so skillfull... Ruff really wields his pen (or typewirter, or computer, or whatever) like a scalpel, with such precision that it is a work of art.

Would I Recommend This Book? Multiple yesses. (Is that how you spell yesses? Well, it is now.) This book is intriguing, deep, annoying at times (both the plot and the characters), confusing (both the plot and characters) but in the best ways. I give Set This House in Order a mist-covered 4 out of 5 stars.

For more information on the author, visit