The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, by Nancy Farmer

Tendai, Kuda, and Rita are the sheltered children of the chief of security of a futuristic Zimbabwe. When they decide they want to have an adventure, they manage to sneak off their property out into the underbelly of the city. There, they fall off the radar, and their father hires three detectives with special powers (Ear, Eye, and Arm) to find the lost children. The story jumps between narratives of Ear, Eye, and Arm and of the kids. 

This was a fantastic adventure story in a futuristic land. I’ve loved several of Farmer’s books, and this one didn’t disappoint. I loved the way she split the story so that we could see both the pursuers and the pursued. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes kid’s science fiction, or to kids between the ages of 9-12. I wish my nephew read, because I’d insist he read it. ūüôā


Aeronaut’s Windlass, by Jim Butcher

The Aeronaut’s Windlass, by Jim Butcher
Narrated by Euan Morton
Captain Grimm is a dedicated airship captain who has fallen into disrepute. Instead of in its military, he serves Spire Aurora by catching pirate ships on his free ship named Predator. However, when Aurora is attacked by a neighboring spire, he must take on a more dangerous mission looking for the enemy who may be lurking within Spire Aurora’s ranks. Besides the grim captain, the mission includes two feisty young women, a loyal (but disdainful) cat, and a young warrior of the guard.¬†

This is a fantastic addition to Butcher’s repertoire. Of his books, I’ve only read the Dresden ones, and then only a few, but I’ve loved every book by Butcher that I’ve ever read. This is no exception. It has adventure, fantasy, steampunk, science fiction and cats. How can that ever be a bad combination? I look forward to the next book in this series, and am now sorely tempted to pick up another Butcher book very, very soon. ¬†


Burning Midnight, by Will McIntosh

Burning Midnight, by Will McIntosh
Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher
via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review 
This book takes place in the not-so-distant future Рa future in which magical spheres have inexplicably appeared all over the world. These spheres can be burned by one person, and that person receives an extraordinary gift. 

In order to make enough money to help his mother pay the rent, Sully sells spheres at a flea market. When an edgy girl with an attitude and great spheres walks in, they make a deal to start hunting together. 

This is by far the best YA science fiction / fantasy novel ¬†I’ve read in years. I knew it would be as soon as I started reading. The story pretty much starts out as a near-future mystery. Who is this girl Hunter and what’s her story? Where’d the spheres come from, and why? The action starts out slow and then steadily rises throughout the book until an¬†adrenaline-pumped end.¬†And the end is where this book went up from 4 stars to 5 stars. McIntosh has achieved the unthinkable: he’s wrapped up all of his loose threads in one book.¬†It’s so nice to read a reasonably non-violent, non-sexual standalone book once in a while. And this one was exceptional, with its mixture of mystery, adventure, and action.¬†

I’d recommend this book to people anywhere from about 5th grade on up, and it’s appropriate for all ages.¬†

War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells

The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells
Narrated by Greg Wagland
Spoiler alert!

When a pod crashes just outside London, our intrepid observer (unnamed protagonist) is at first curious. He watches as a lid slowly unscrews itself, and an alien crawls out. He only makes a run for it when green lightening chases down the watching crowd, scorching them all to death. He runs home, takes his wife to an out-of-the-way town, and for some idiotic reason heads back home. The rest of the book is his adventures on the way back to his wife. It also contains a short couple of chapters about the adventures of his brother in London Рjust to add some greater perspective of the story. 


Despite the name of this story, War of the Worlds is about three pods that land in the London area it is not an en masse invasion. I think it’s interesting that yet again Wells wrote a book where the characters remain completely unnamed. Perhaps that’s meant to make the story more “autobiographical” or simply to say that events, not names, matter when something like this happens. I like to think of it as the second choice.¬†

If you’ve read past my spoiler alert, then you don’t mind if I mention that in the end of the book all of the aliens died from bacterial infection because they were not immune to disease on Earth. I think this ending was quite creative and forward thinking at the time. It also gives the reader a feeling of no control. No. We didn’t destroy the aliens with our brains and technology and sheer will to live. They were going to destroy us, and that’s that. But something completely out of our control is what saved us in the end.¬†

I thought this ending was quite fascinating when I read the book as a teenager. Then, when the Tom Cruise movie came out one of my friends told me “don’t see it, it has the stupidest ending, I’ve heard.” So I expected something really darned stupid to happen at the ending. When it ended, she turned to me to say “I told you so” when I pointed out that this is exactly how the book ended. She was like “it was based on a book?” That gave me a perspective that perhaps an ending outside of our control is too philosophical for most readers/movie watchers of the day? Perhaps we just want to see ourselves be in control of our own fate?¬†

I think it’s interesting to note that the ending to Independence Day also had a similar ending – a virus killed the aliens, but in this case it was technological warfare and not a biological infection that we had no control over. So metaphorical disease was there, just as in War of the Worlds, but the power was in our hands.¬†

I’m trying to think of some modern books (besides outwardly religious ones) where a similarly dire situation is turned around by something outside of our control. If I recall, there’s a very popular Stephen King novel that ends in a deus ex machina sort of way.¬†


The Rolling Stones, by Robert A Heinlein

The Rolling Stones, by Robert A Heinlein
Narrated by Tom Weiner
Teenaged twins Castor and Pollux Stone cajole their father into buying a space ship, and the entire family goes on a trip around the galaxy. But Castor and Pollux repeatedly end up in trouble with their schemes to make a fortune on distant planets.


This is a hard book for me to review, so I’ll keep it short. I’ve only read one other book by Heinlein, A Stranger in a Strange Land, and that was as a teenager, so I expected something a bit more serious and meaningful in this book. Is this what pulp is? I’ve only read one pulp-fiction book, A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, so I’m very inexperienced with the genre. It took me a while to get over the cheese. But I recognize that when you’re reading a book that was written in a style foreign to you, it’s better to view the book within its context rather than comparing it to your usual type. And after I approached the book from this perspective, I began to really enjoy the humor and even became emotionally invested in the characters. I wouldn’t say I highly recommend this book, but I enjoyed my second pulp experience.¬†




Shada, by Douglas Adams and Gareth Roberts

Shada: Doctor Who, the Lost Adventure
By Douglas Adams and Gareth Roberts
Narrated by Lalla Ward and John Leeson

Shada is a novel tie-in to the popular TV series Doctor Who. Specifically, it is based on the screenplay (written by Douglas Adams) of an unbroadcast eighth doctor story arc. ¬†The Doctor, Romana, and K-9 go to visit an old friend, Professor Chronotis, after receiving a distress signal. It turns out that Chronotis had stolen a dangerous book: The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey. All the Time Lords have heard of this book, but none of them quite seem to remember what it’s for. When the book is accidentally borrowed by a post-doc, the Doctor and Romana must find the book and keep it out of the hands of Skagra, an evil genius bent on becoming the universe. (Important distinction here – he’s not taking over the universe; he’s becoming it.)¬†

This is the first time I’ve ever read a novel tie-in to a show or movie. My opinion has always been that books can become movies but movies shouldn’t become books. You have to add in so much information for a TV novelization to be a good book. When I read a book, I’m not just looking for a story, I’m looking for beauty. For art. For characterization. These are things that this book did not particularly have. You knew who the characters were, after all. Why develop them? You knew about the world in which this story was taking place. No need for world building. So, in that way, the book isn’t what I’m generally looking for in a book.¬†

That said, this book did have humor, excitement, and familiar friends going through wild adventures. It was Doctor Who, after all, how could I not like it? 

The book was well-read – narrated by the actress who played Romana in the TV show. K-9’s voice was John Leeson, as well. So that was a very nice touch. This is my first time listening to a dramatization with sound effects. I’ve heard multiple-reader dramatizations, but never with footsteps, creaking doors, etc. It was kind of fun. Maybe I’ll try something like this out again.¬†

I’m going to have to give this book 3.5 snowflakes because I prefer books that have more characterization and world-building. But I also recognize that this is not what tv novelizations are meant to have.¬†

The Martian, by Andy Weir

The Martian, by Andy Weir, narrated by R. C. Bray
When a team of Mars explorers runs into some problems while on Mars, they think that astronaut Mark Watney has died. The rest of the crew avoid the storm by immediately heading back home to Earth. Unknown to them, Watney is still alive and must survive on Mars alone with meager supplies left behind by the Mars expedition. With his extraordinary resourcefulness, he manages to survive while desperately hoping that Earth will realize that he’s still alive and come to rescue him.¬†

This book was as fantastic as everyone says it is. Watney’s struggle to survive is fascinating, and the action moves forward at a steady pace. Yeah, there’s a lot of technical language, which made the book a little slower than I would have liked at times, but it was never so slow that I wanted to stop listening. It was more of an “ok, I get that you’re doing awesome technical stuff, let’s move on.” But those scenes were only paragraph-long. I was a little amused at how much money and time America was willing to put in to save Watney. After all, he was only one person and there are so many people on earth that could have benefited greatly from that money. They could have helped thousands of people instead of just one. I get it. He’s a hero. But he also made the choice to go on a dangerous adventure. The homeless and hungry in America and around the world did not make the choice to starve. Shouldn’t they be helped first?

The narration in the audiobook was also excellent. The humorous parts were so well executed that I had to laugh out loud on numerous occasions. 

I can’t wait to see this movie. I plan on going with my boyfriend next Tuesday. ūüôā
4.5 stars for interest level and superb execution

Dark Eden, by Chris Beckett

Dark Eden, by Chris Beckett; narrated by Matthew Frow, Jayne Entwistle, Ione Butler, Robert Hook, Heather Wilds, Nicholas Guy Smith, Hannah Curtis, Bruce Mann


When a group of four people have to land on an unknown planet to regroup and repair their ship, they decide to split into two groups – a man and woman who do not want to risk the flight back remain on “Eden” alone, and the two others set back off for Earth with¬†promises¬†to send a rescue ship as soon as¬†possible. Generations later, the people of Eden are still waiting. Still hanging out in exactly the same crash-landing spot. Still following the matriarchal rules structured by the mother of all. But their small area is becoming too crowded. They have to forage farther and farther for food.¬†



John Redlantern is frustrated with “Family.” With their stubbornness at remaining in one spot when they could clearly spread out over the vast planet and have enough food for all. He’s tired of the extreme ritualistic nature of “Family.” The artifacts from planet Earth are passed around to be “ooohed” and “ahhhed” at, but they are meaningless to a people who have never experienced technology. John is tempted to disrupt the circle of the past, and create a new path for the “Family.” In doing so, he breaks down everything “Family” represents.

Let me start with an important point: although John Redlantern and his friends are teenagers, this is not a teen book. It’s “literary science fiction.” The beginning of the book, which builds the world, the people, and the tension, is really long and slow. It was a bit of a slog to get to the turning point. Once that happens they story finally begins to move a little faster – but even the post-turning-point action is slow.¬†

The reason the narrative is so slow is because this is a story about Meaning with a capital M, and not about plot or action. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a plot. A plot with Meaning.¬†There were several allegories to the story. The obvious one is the Biblical creation story. It’s all about how innocence is lost when people begin to get bored. But boredom is in our nature. Without boredom, we never learn new things. And new experiences don’t just change you, they change the world.¬†

Dark Eden also explores a destructive nature of men – as opposed to a more structured, peaceful and confining nature of women. (This seems to be what the book implies, it’s not exactly what I think of the gender divide.)

Dark Eden demonstrates the irony that change is needed to survive, but change is destructive to survival. It’s not just a book about changing the world. It’s also about how the world changes the individual. The main characters in the book, especially John Redlantern and his lover Tina Spiketree, develop into strikingly different people as they adapt to the changing world. Innocence is replaced with deviousness. Ivory towers collapse, covering all bystanders with dust and grime. This is a story of identity.

In other ways, Dark Eden is a book about faith. How faith can lift you up and keep you strong during difficult times. But how it can be manipulated against you, as well. And how, as you realize everything you had faith in is mistaken, you are first paralyzed with numbness, but then are able to move on as a new person. 

I want to give a good review for this book with so much Meaning. I mean, it should have been good. It had Meaning. But a great book has both Meaning and an ability to fascinate even if you don’t see the Meaning. Dark Eden did not. In Dark Eden, the story was lost in the darkness because you were blinded by the bright, shiny Meaning. It was too slow, the hero wasn’t even likable if you considered him an anti-hero, and it was thoroughly uncaptivating. I totally understand why it won the Arthur C Clark award and why it comes so highly recommended. Beckett’s world was unique – colorful and dark at the same time. The setting was unsettling and realistic within the boundaries of science fiction. The lingual drift was a nice, realistic touch. But most of all, the book was slow and Meaningful.

3.5 snowflakes for unique world building and Meaning

As an afterthought РI would like to post this Twitter conversation: 

It is authors that are willing to interact with their readers, even when given a mediocre review, that are truly great. I had been on the fence about whether to read the second book in the series or not – because I am a little curious where his Meaning will go – this conversation put me over the edge to want to read it. Because when someone cares about his readers, I want to like his books more. ūüôā

Bloodchild and Other Stories, by Octavia E. Butler

Bloodchild and Other Stories, by Octavia E. Butler

This is a book of horror / dark fantasy stories by the amazing author Ocativa E. Butler. Believe it or not, this is the first book by Butler that I have ever read, and I was amazed at her brilliance. 

Her stories were incredibly creative. They covered important issues like race, slavery, sexuality, and identity, all in the guise of alien occupation or dystopic disease and other dark fantasy themes. Her prose was smooth and eloquent.

The most interesting of the stories was her novella Bloodchild, which is about a child that is about to be “sexually” adopted by some alien worm-thing. The story¬†encompassed¬†the feelings of the boy, his mother, and the alien – providing¬†some very startling insight.¬†


After each story, Butler included a short essay of what she intended the story to mean or background in her life when the story was written. These brought further understanding to the story, though I was a little skeptical when she insisted that she hadn’t intended Bloodchild to be about slavery. But, I guess, sometimes meanings creep in there unintended. And there’s also something to say for the readers’ interpretation regardless of intended meaning. To me, slavery was one of the many underlying themes of the story.¬†

At the end of the book, Butler included a couple of essays about what it was like being an African American science fiction author, and encouraged young people to follow their dreams and become authors. Finally, there were a couple of never-before-published stories. 

This little book is well worth your time if you are interested in deeper cultural issues of race, slavery, and sexuality – possibly even if you are not specifically interested in science fiction and fantasy.

For pure brilliance



This post is for R. I. P. X @TheEstellaSociety and the 2015 Halloween Reading Challenge @ReadingEverySeason. It is also for #Diversiverse, @BookLust, which is all about reading books by people of a variety of ethnic/racial backgrounds, so I will provide tell you a little about the author, Octavia E. Butler.

Octavia E. Butler was born in 1947 into an impoverished African American community to a 14-year-old girl. Despite struggling with dyslexia, she had a passion for reading and writing ever since she was very young. As a teenager, she started attempting to publish her stories, despite the extreme difficulty for African Americans publishing science fiction / fantasy. At the time she was one of only a couple African American sci-fi writers. Despite being taken advantage of by money-hungry agents, she finally published Patternmaster in 1976. This book was praised for its powerful prose, and she ended up writing four prequels. She finally became mainstream upon publication of Kindred in 1979. Butler died outside of her home in 2006.

Fire & Ash



Fire & Ash, by Jonathan Maberry

Reason for reading:¬†This is the fourth and final book in a series that I’ve been reading. I’m making a goal this year to get farther in / finish as many series as possible

Summary: In this fourth and final book in the Rot & Ruin series, Benny, Chong, Lila, and Nix battle the genocidal Reapers while keeping the zombies at bay. But they might have to become monsters to fight monsters. And who is more of a monster: The zombies or the humans? 

Thoughts:¬†This book was filled with action and adventure with a dash of intrigue. Like most Maberry books that I’ve read, the action got a little too much at times, to the point of feeling a little B-rate. But Maberry has some interesting plots and his philosophy about who really is the monster is quite interesting. Overall, a good finale. If you liked the first three books, you’ll like this one as well.