Category Archives: Saturday Shorts

Wardbreaker by J.A. Cipriano

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, in which we review shorter works such as short stories, novellas, middle-grade books, and graphic novels. All Lillim wants to do is get away for a bit – escape her world where monsters and mayhem reign at every hour. She ends up in sunny Orange County for a little relaxing time and, instead, finds herself facing a group of powerful vampires that the Dioscuri organization she works for has blatantly ignored.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

AuthorJ.A. Cipriano
SeriesLillim Callina, Book 0.5
Publish Date: October 15, 2015
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s DescriptionA city full of vampires. A dark ritual. A runaway determined to stay hidden.

Lillim Callina was still trying to figure out how to live like a normal girl when the vampires attacked. Now, this former demon hunter must decide if staying hidden is more important than saving her new home from the largest vampire infestation she has ever seen.

The only problem is, if she stops the vampires, the people hunting her just may find her, and they aren’t too fond of deserters.

Wardbreaker is the first prequel in The Lillim Callina Chronicles, an urban fantasy series and takes place approximately one year before the first book, Kill it with Magic.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat Mandu says…

As much as I enjoyed this, it’s an awfully long “novella.” It took me almost as much time to read this as it does many YA books. I almost wouldn’t call it a novella, as only novellas vs. novels are determined by the word count. But hey, it was a good story.

Lillim’s a couple years younger in Wardbreaker than when you meet her in Kill It With Magic, the first official Callina novel. It’s her first time in California, but not her first venture to the human world. Things are still a little disorienting for her.

But then Luc shows up, looking for her help with a group of bad guy vampires and Lillim’s suddenly right back at home, facing down a myriad of monsters while wondering why the Dioscuri isn’t doing anything to help the humans who are being preyed upon.

One of the coolest things I like about Lillim’s stories are that the creatures she fights against are always very unique and many – sure, there are vamps and werewolves, but there are also ents (tree men), dragons, and pixies. If you like a variety of supernatural baddies, you’d enjoy this.

It’s a nice lead-up to the series and introduction to both Lillim and Luc. I found it just got lengthy in certain points, even when there’s a lot of action going on. Lillim is a commentator on everything and her internal dialogue only adds to the battle scenes—making them funny, yes, but also like I said, lengthy.

Other recommendations…

Mark E. Cooper, Donna Joy Usher, Inge-Lise Goss

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Rivers of London, Vol. 2: Night Witch by Ben Aaronovitch

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, in which we review shorter works such as short stories, novellas, middle-grade books, and graphic novels. Night Witch is the second original story in graphic novel format in the Rivers of London/PC Peter Grant series. It takes place before both the upcoming third graphic novel, Black Mould, and before the sixth full novel, The Hanging Tree.

night-witchTitleNight Witch
AuthorBen Aaronovitch
SeriesRivers of London, Vol 2/Book 5.1
Publish Date: December 13, 2016, Titan
Genre: Urban Fantasy graphic novel
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Press-ganged into helping a Russian oligarch hunt his missing daughter, PC Peter Grant and his boss, Thomas Nightingale, London’s only wizarding cops, find themselves caught up in a battle between Russian gunmen, a monstrous forest creature – and their nemesis: The Faceless Man. But as Grant and Nightingale close in on the missing girl, they discover that nothing about this case is what it seems! An all-new story that takes place before the new Rivers of London novel – The Hanging Tree!

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

The second graphic novel sends Peter and Nightingale on the hunt for a child kidnapper, but they also end up tangling with Leslie May and the Faceless Man.

I liked this story, but I will caution that it’s not as good an introduction to the series a Body Work. There is a lot going on in Night Witch that isn’t fully explained, so you’ll want to read this in order with the novels. It took me rereading a few sections to get the story straight at times.

I really appreciate the way the art ensures that Toby, the terrier from book one, is part of the story. He doesn’t have a role to play in this story as he did in Midnight Riot, but he’s always included in the story. There is also a hilarious bit with Beverly Brook in this novel that is priceless.

badge4v5Once again, the trade contains several one-page shorts at the end of the book. They are just as cute and clever a those in Body Work and are probably my favorite part of these trades.

If you are a fan of the series, I certainly recommend picking up this graphic novel.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Check out the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka, the Felix Castor series by Mike Carey, or the Asylum Tales series by Jocelynn Drake.

Review of All Harry Potter Companion Books by J.K. Rowling

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, where we review short stories, novellas, and middle-grade book. Today we are wrapping up both the year and our Harry Potter read-along with a review of all the short Harry Potter books written by Rowling.

Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them: 5 stars

fantastic-beastsI can’t help but giggle every time I read this, especially that intro page. “Write in your own book, Hermione,” Ron says as if he’s not doing the same exact thing while using Harry’s books.

Besides the humorous comments tossed here and there, plus the comical drawings, this is wonderful all on its own.

I really adore JK Rowling’s imagination as she comes up with unique creatures based on myths and her own brilliant mind. Read this book before you go see the movie, I’m betting it’ll help you identify some of the creatures Newt Scamander comes into contact with.

quiddich-through-the-agesQuidditch Through The Ages: 3 stars

Though this is a lovely addition to the Hogwarts library trio and full of good information on Quidditch, I find I’m more of Hermione’s mind on this book. It just didn’t interest me like the others did.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it and you won’t either. The history behind how the sport was created is fabulous and it’s nice to see how it has changed throughout time. JK Rowling never ceases to amaze me on what she creates.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard: 5 stars

tales-of-beedle-the-bardWe all know JK Rowling is an excellent storyteller – all seven original Harry Potter books are filled with fascinating creatures, remarkable world-building, characters we learn to both treasure and loathe, and pure, enjoyable magic at its finest. Now she provides us with a short book full of wizarding-world fairy tales that are all extraordinary in their own rights.

I loved the childlike feel of each of these stories, especially as a lot of them feature princesses and kings, reminiscent of our own fairy tales. My personal favorite is Babbity Rabbity because it not only teaches a moral but it makes for great fun. I feel like I’d tell these to my own children later. I also love the Three Brothers because it was the one mentioned in the last book and therefore, connected with me the most because of the references.

I did enjoy the commentary by Dumbledore, as it offered unique insights into how he felt and brought up some things fans would recognize (like the name Brutus Malfoy). However, I enjoyed the stories themselves a lot more.

Regardless, it is clear that JK Rowling is an absolute genius and we could all learn something from her and her tales.

pottermore-presents-1Pottermore Presents: Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies – 5 stars

I enjoyed this set of background information a lot more than the other two because it divulged things I didn’t already know.

Hearing about the short histories behind Lupin, McGonagall, Trelawney, and even Kettleburn is fascinating. Who knew that the transfiguration teacher had a history of heartbreak? Or that poor Kettleburn retired from Hogwarts with only a couple limbs? When I first read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, especially the scene where Hagrid is introduced as the new Care of Magical Creatures teacher, I was under the impression that when Dumbledore said, “he wishes to spend time with his remaining limbs” he actually meant his family. I don’t know why I assumed that but I did. Now I get it.

Anyway, this is a short, entertaining read with some sadness mixed in. But still good of course!

pottermore-presents-2Pottermore Presents: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists – 4 stars

Lots of fun facts regarding the Ministry in this set of background information. I’m wondering if it has anything to do with the Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them film (which by the way, I can’t wait to see).

I wish there would have been more info on the pre-life of Peeves. He’s such a funny character who causes lots of trouble for Harry and well, everyone really.

This is enjoyable, just like the other two.

Pottermore Presents: Hogwarts – An Incomplete & Unreliable Guide – 3 stars

pottermore-presents-3This is a nice collection of information on the secrets of Hogwarts castle. I found I liked the simple details that Rowling includes, however, I wish there would have been more information on things I didn’t already know. It frequently becomes repetitive, especially to those who have read Harry Potter so much and know the lore about a lot of Hogwarts stuff. But I did like the author explaining her thoughts on certain things (like the lake with its merpeople, and the original plot line within the Chamber of Secrets book) while she was actually writing the book. I think that’s my favorite part about this, when she divulges her first initial thought processes.

Our reviews in this series…

The Taker’s Stone by Barbara Timberlake Russell

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, where we feature short stories, novellas, and middle-grade books.  Today, Kat reads a middle-grade fantasy from her childhood.

Takers StoneTitle: The Taker’s Stone
Author: Barbara Timberlake Russell
Series: stand-alone
Publish Date: September 15, 1999
Genre:  Middle-Grade Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionThe Stones are beautiful — too beautiful not to touch. Holding them, Fischer feels strong, powerful. How can he resist? He will show his smooth-talking cousin David, show his own father that he isn’t afraid to act. He will take the Stones for himself.But Fischer’s impulsive theft has unforeseen consequences. It puts into play an age-old conflict between good and evil — with Fischer caught between the two. Should Fischer believe Thistle — a strange, feisty young girl from another time who suddenly appears before him, urging him to return the Stones? Can he escape the temptations of the evil but beguiling Belial, who seeks the Stones so he can control the world? Or should he keep them, with all their power, for himself?

Suddenly a fourteen-year-old boy finds himself on a journey that tests the very core of his character, for it is only when Fischer explores his own inner conflicts and spiritual nature that he finds the answers that can prevent catastrophe. This compelling adventure is a race against time that will pull readers in from the very first page. Fischer’s moral dilemma is sure to resonate with today’s teenagers, who face increasingly complex and difficult decisions in their own lives.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

The Taker’s Stone is one of the first fantasy books I ever read, recommended for fans of middle-grade. Although the writing is simple and fast-paced, some of the plots are also pretty predictable and cliched. It’s all about the ultimate battle between good and evil.

Fischer is the kind of teenage boy I love reading about. A little less than confident, afraid to disappoint, and sometimes brooding. He and his cousin David are often quite opposites, which leads to occasional arguments but pulls them together at other times. The characters border the lines of young adult and middle grade, so it was hard for me to pick out a genre. But I’d ultimately have to stick with middle grade. There was a lot of innocence intermingled with the story.

badge4v4Since I hadn’t read this since I was seven or so, I didn’t realize how religious the story was. But now I see all the references (though the story does not preach) made to miracles and the idea of “seeing the light” and the fight against evil within a man’s heart. The lead villain within the story is meant to represent a vision of the Devil.

This is a pretty basic book but I love it nevertheless. Realize that it was written in the nineties so it has a simpler, much more mellow tone than some of the more recent middle-grade stories tend to have.

Four stars! Recommended for fans of authors like Cornelia Funke, Tamora Pierce, and Katherine Paterson.

The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne

Welcome to Saturday Shorts. A poodle has been kid—, er, dognapped, and Oberon will not stand for that! Told from Oberon’s point of view, this book is a hilarious short story about a mystery that Atticus and Oberon have together. Will Oberon, and his assistant Atticus, be able to rescue the poodle before something bad happens? And will Oberon be able to earn the sausages Atticus has promised if they find the poodle? It’s a fun read that answers those questions!

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Purloined PoodleTitleOberon’s Meaty Mysteries: The Purloined Poodle
AuthorKevin Hearne
SeriesIron Druid Chronicles, Book 8.5
Publish Date: September 30, 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Netgalley

Publisher’s Description: Thanks to his relationship with the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, Oberon the Irish wolfhound knows trouble when he smells it—and furthermore, he knows he can handle it.

When he discovers that a prizewinning poodle has been abducted in Eugene, Oregon, he learns that it’s part of a rash of hound abductions all over the Pacific Northwest. Since the police aren’t too worried about dogs they assume have run away, Oberon knows it’s up to him to track down those hounds and reunite them with their humans. For justice! And gravy!

Engaging the services of his faithful Druid, Oberon must travel throughout Oregon and Washington to question a man with a huge salami, thwart the plans of diabolical squirrels, and avoid, at all costs, a fight with a great big bear.

But if he’s going to solve the case of the Purloined Poodle, Oberon will have to recruit the help of a Boston terrier named Starbuck, survive the vegetables in a hipster pot pie, and firmly refuse to be distracted by fire hydrants and rabbits hiding in the rose bushes.

At the end of the day, will it be a sad bowl of dry kibble for the world’s finest hound detective, or will everything be coming up sirloins?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Percy_Procrastinator_100Percy Procrastinator says…

What I Didn’t Like: I can’t think of anything.

What I Liked: This was a fun, quick mystery that I really enjoyed reading. Oberon’s point of view is just so much fun to read. I do get Oberon’s Shenanigans, his monthly newsletter, so had some idea how it would go. I was not disappointed. Not only do we get a fun mystery, but we also learn why it would be better if everyone greeted each other with butt-sniffs and which meats are the best! And it’s just fun!

From a bigger picture perspective, this is a good story on why Atticus doesn’t get involved in things all of the time. It’s very difficult to explain your druidic powers to the authorities, much less have to explain them in a court! Atticus has to balance out what he tells the detective in charge as well as the owners, so that he doesn’t scare them off giving him the information he needs to help rescue the Purloined Poodle.

badge5v4A strong five. In fact, now that we have eight books, and a few short stories, in this series, I think this would be a strong contender as a short story to get new people hooked into the series. It’s self contained and while it does give away a few things from the series, I don’t think that what it gives away is that surprising. Indeed, having the perspective might make a few early novels be more fun.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

I just LOVE Kevin Hearne. Can I say that? Literary references, historical references, RPG references, sci-fi TV show references. Specific episodes, even, like the X-files episode with Big Mike. I just want to hug this guy and call him family.

Yes, all those references are made in The Purloined Poodle, in addition to it being a great mystery. Oberon, Atticus’s Irish Wolfhound and comic sidekick, gets his own story from his own point of view, and it’s wonderfully done. From the inaccurate sense of time to the obsession with meat to the ongoing battle with squirrels and other distractions, we really get a sense of what it’s like to be Oberon in Atticus’s world.

badge5v4The book had me laughing the entire time; but I cannot WAIT for the audio! I feel sorry for Luke Daniels, as voicing Oberon for a whole novella has got to kill his voice for a few days. But OMG it is going to be so epic. 🙂

Lots and lots of geeky love for this awesome novella.

Nervous Nellie says…

This is a quick novella starring Oberon and his druid, Atticus.  Oberon wants to solve the mystery of Nervous_Nellie_100who is dog napping so many champion dogs.  Their people seem very distressed and Oberon just wants to be Sherlock Holmes complete with the hat and pipe.

Atticus cheats at solving this mystery by using his transportation skills and his ability to talk to dogs.

This was a fun murder mystery, dognapping conspiracy with riotous narration by Oberon himself.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.