Wait, What’s Happening?

The one consistency I’ve found across the reviews for Ninth City Burning, whether it was 1 star or 5 stars, is that J. Patrick Black used a range of science fiction icons that his inspiration. This certainly isn’t a bad thing, and I didn’t feel it took anything away from the story. Instead of reiterating those icons, he molded them to fit his plot. That’s just good authorship if you ask me.

I’m going to be blunt with my overall criticism – it’s confusing. A real quick overview of the plot: Valentine’s Day, aliens attack using technology we’ve never seen before. Five hundred years later we’re in a stalemate against them, but we’ve harnessed their technology so we can hold our own against them. This is where people are making

comparisons. Similar to Star Wars, certain people have a “force” they are able to yield as a weapon. Blacks calls it thelemity and backs it all up with science. There is an academy to train kids for a lifetime of military service, much like Ender’s Game (others cite Harry Potter and Hogwarts but I don’t agree completely with that connection). We’ve created giant suits of armor (Pacific Rim by Tel Toro, anyone, anyone), while in space and bouncing between portals. There is also mention of Starship Troopers and Red Rising, all for good reason.

Lately I’ve been obsessing over the “question” character. Many times it’s the main character but side characters work as well. The fastest way for the author to get relevant information to the reader is for one or more characters to know even less of what is going on than the reader, so as that character asks questions, the reader learns along with them. Sometimes there are good question characters, frustratingly slow question characters, or even wrong characters to be asking questions. The lack of information and sometimes outright wrong information coming from the characters was frustrating. I didn’t have a full grasp of the story until halfway through because it simply wasn’t given to me.

Black uses a rotating cast of POVs and each of them are at a different level of in the “know.” With the extensive world building Black needed to do, I’m not sure this was the right narration technique. Rae and Naomi are part of a “wandering” community that haven’t encountered the alien war and don’t believe it’s happening. Torro lives in a settlement working long hours in various factories that send their goods to the “front.” The settlement communities romanticize the war because they need volunteers to go fight, but no one comes back from the front, so these citizens often argue amongst themselves what is actually happening. Jax and Kizabel and Vinneas are a little higher on the food chain and have seen some of the fighting first hand. They help to explain the basic intro information to start with. Then there is a scene with Torro as he is going through training where an officer sits down the new troops and tells them the truth of what’s been going on for the last 500 years. It was the first time I felt like I finally understood what had been happening. Even with Torro growing up in the settlement, knowing and believing this war has been happening, he has been fed misleading information his whole life (which he shared with the reader).

This way of getting information across made for a confusing story. Even when all fo the information was revealed, I didn’t have that satisfactory feeling as everything clicked into place. I felt lied to, like the citizens of the settlements had been lied to.

Ninth City Burning is the start of a trilogy. Series often fall prey to the beginning of the story being mostly world building, and it ends just as the epic battle is about to take place. I’m pleased to say Black didn’t fall pretty to this typical blunder. We get a battle at the end and promise of an even more epic battle to come. I think Black has a lot going for himself with this story. Even as confused as I was in the beginning, I was invested in the characters. Black has all the space in the world to show us where he can take this story, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it only gets better from here.




By: Emily Coleman
Thank you Blogging for Books for the ARC of Ninth City Burning.


Going Down In Flames

Sarah Raughley drops us in the middle of this dystopian future, which include phantom (wraith-like beings with destructive power) and 4 teenage girls with elemental powers who are trained to protect the world from the phantoms. When a girl, an Effigie, is killed, a new girl receives those same powers and joins the famous Effigie group. At the start of the story, Maia knows she has been chosen as the new flame Effigie but hasn’t told anyone yet. The Sect (international organization in charge of the Effigies) will find her eventually and force her to reveal herself.img_2127

While the story grabs your attention, I had some trouble with the dialogue, especially in the beginning. Maia had a terrible habit of talking around what she wanted to say. I understand she’s only 16 and is more than a little uncomfortable with being an Effigie, but spit it out girl! Rhys is a Sect member and ultimately the love interest, and scenes between the two of them were difficult to get through. Rhys has a crush on Maia but won’t act on it, and also has an important secret to tell her but kept skirting around it until they were interrupted. Over and over again. We still don’t know what his secret is. Raughley did enough to keep my interested in the story as it went along but she withheld some information and I’m not sure it was necessary. Are those secrets going to play that big of a role in the coming books? I might be more inclined to continue the series if I understood more of what was happening.

I was disappointed with the characters as well. Nothing about them made them more than just stereotypes. Maia is quiet and awkward, Belle is the face of the Effigies but is cold and disinterested in anyone else, Chae Rin has been outcast by the Sect for being too destructive and now occupies her time as an acrobat in the circus, and Lake has PTSD from her last battle so she decides to try her hand at being a pop star. Belle comes the closest to breaking her cold hearted shell and having some character development, but Raughley pulls her back again and doesn’t give us the satisfaction to seeing beyond her exterior.

I’m hoping this will be a trilogy. Three books would be enough for this story. Raughley has done well with a diverse setting but there is a lot of work to be done building the plot. This could be a great story with more character development and continued plot development.

Does anyone remember what Z.O.O. stands for?

Da da da da da da da da da da da da da da…welp…typing the tune to John William’s theme from Jurassic Park fails in comparison to listening to it’s majesty. I felt that I should fit in a reference to Michael Crichton’s wildly popular book since so many people talk about it when they talk about James Patterson’s Zoo.zoo-james-patterson

I must confess, this was my first James Patterson novel. The television series looked interesting and I wanted to read the book before binge watching the show. I ended up binge reading the novel in two sittings. It is quickly paced and not at all dense which lends itself to the sort of bingeing that we do in the Age of Netflix.

I will do my best to leave any comparison to Jurassic Park from this review since I really didn’t find the two at all similar in style or execution. The problem is…Jeff Goldblum reads the part of Jackson Oz in my head…

I’m sorry! That is the last of it, I promise!

But seriously, if you like Michael Crichton you will like James Patterson.

In Zoo, we find that animals across the globe have begun to act strangely. Attacks on humans have increased in frequency. Jackson Oz has noticed and tried to warn people but is seen as a crackpot conspiracy theorist by the scientific and biologist communities. As things start spiraling out of control and the bizarre and gruesome attacks become harder to deny, Oz gets video proof and is able to convince the scientists and the government that there is indeed a problem and they need to figure out what is causing it and how to reverse it.

Okay, here is what I liked about the novel: fast pace, characterization, organic plot.

I really can’t think of much that I didn’t like about the novel. It was a little predictable at times but hey, I’m the type of person that watches each episode of Survivor already knowing who got voted off (Google is just too easy to use…)

Da da da da da dada da da..oh never mind…just read the book!



By Daniel Stump

When one dies, the other does too.

The Fire Sermon

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Advanced Reader Copy!!! (How great are these?)

Post-apocalyptic is the fad right now. Some of it is good and the movies have been fun for the most part. The Fire Sermon is the first in a new trilogy that just might be able to stand with the best of them.

Francesca Haig twisted the dystopian genre in a way that is interesting and adding some elements that I appreciated. Machines caused the apocalypse and even though 400 years later humanity has made a comeback, technology has not. Technology is always the bad guy but when civilization is able to get back on its feet we see technology spring forward as well. Haig went screaming in the other direction, reverting humanity back to horses and carriages.

Haig created an interesting plot with the Alphas and Omegas. Everyone is born as a twin, no exceptions. The Alpha is perfect and the Omega has some sort of deformity, be it a missing arm or a third eye. The main character Cass is an Omega but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. She was born a Seer. Feared by the Alphas and hated by the Omegas. I liked Cass as a main character for the most part. She was complex. But sometimes I wondered if she was too complex for her own good. Cass would explain her motivations and beliefs a lot throughout the book, to different people. But those conversations were always a little muddy. I started to wonder if Haig was having a hard time explaining the driving force behind the plot or if she doesn’t know her main character very well. The writing overall was good and any other conversation was concise. It was just Cass I had a hard time following every now and then. The Fire Sermon never slows down in its 370 pages. I kept wondering what Haig could possibly put into two more books but she does leave us with questions. I’m looking forward to following Cass and what will become of the Resistance in the next two installments.

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig is expected to be published March 10, 2015 by Gallery Books

By Emily Coleman

The Girl with all the Gifts


“Good morning, Melanie.”

The Girl with all the Gifts is the first book under the pen name M. R. Carey, but just another in the line of works by all time great storyteller Mike Carey. Many people outside the comic book world might not recognize the name Mike Carey, but his works Hellblazer (which was made into an awful but entertaining film starring Keanu Reeves) and Lucifer, are known to have caught the mainstreams attention winning him several awards. He has also worked with Marvel on a variety of X-men and ¬Fantastic Four runs, but my personal favorite work of his is Unwritten, which is one of the best graphic novel series I have ever read. (There is a review for the unwritten written by this reviewer and can be found over at Basically it says if you love literature and can read, you need to read this series.) So how did the comic book writer fare traveling into the novel world? Perfectly.

I was very lucky to get my hands on an advanced reader copy of The Girl With all the Gifts thanks to my beautiful and wonderfully talented advanced reader connection and fellow writer Emily Coleman. Melanie is the girl with all the gifts, but raised in a cell of cement, one classroom, and leather straps on every chair, she knows nothing outside of cold walls and soldiers who do not laugh at her jokes. She hears whispers of a fallen world. She sees the fear in soldier’s eyes as they guard her and the other children. Slowly, the other children are taken away and never brought back by the guards. As her friends disappear, Melanie asks herself when she will be next. What’s on the outside of the red door? And how long will it be before the Hungries find them all.

The Girl With all the Gifts is an apocalyptic tale, and if I had known that from the beginning, it probably would’ve taken me longer to start it. With so many dystopian future books coming out, (looking at you YA) even something as dramatic as the end of all we know and love can get dull. TGWATG spits on the word dull. The bouncing narrations in the book do a great job of highlighting the world in different neon point of views. We have the cold scientist, the burdened leader, the green soldier, and the every person teacher that is trying to remind them all what it means to be human. And of course Melanie, who has the greatest chapters, because not only is she looking at this broken world through innocent eyes, but she also never knew the world before it was broken. She sees a crumbling London, and to her that is how London always was and will be. Her chapters are a constant haunting reminder that whatever we have today are just the ruins of tomorrow. This novel does a brilliant job in asking the question not how humanity will survive, but does humanity deserve to survive?

Harping on apocalypse novels a little more, my biggest regret with reading any of them is that the endings are never satisfying. There is either a dues ex machina, or the characters just kind of continue on, adverting the big challenge of the book, but still living in a messed up world with little more than they had when the book started. Both situations leave a hollow ending, with the latter being worse because there is zero resolution. TGWATG manages to avoid both, and the ending is perfect. Cyclical, cynical, hopeful, and heartbreakingly resolute is offered to any reader who opens these pages.


The Girl with all the Gifts was published in a minimal release in January 2014. The US release will happen June 2014 by Orbit, an imprint of Little, Brown book club. I encourage all to buy it.


By Justin Johnson