Front Lines… Edited by Denise Little

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Front Lines

Edited by Denise Little

Published By: DAW Books, Inc.: A Member of Penguin Group (USA)


Good Pick for Fans of Speculative Fiction

Reviewed by Vicky Burkholder
on 12/21/2008

I said in an earlier review of a different anthology that reviewing an anthology of short stories has to be one of the hardest things a reviewer can do, especially if the stories are all written by different authors. My previous statement still holds true. Some of the authors in this anthology include Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Laura Resnick, Jody Lynn Nye, Jim Fiscus, J. Steven York.

In this book, we are given twenty-one different stories by different authors but with one theme uniting them all – in this case, being on the front lines in a war, whether against human, pixie, or “thing” and settings are all over the universe, from the intergalactic to a little boy’s backyard. According to the introduction, “this book isn’t about…what it means as a society to fight a war….it’s all about the life of the people on the front lines of battle.” What I find interesting about the book, is that more than half the writers are women. Surely a unique perspective in a hard science fiction book. The stories are thought provoking, funny, poignant, and sad. Everything an anthology should be.

Like all anthologies, there were some stories I liked, some I didn’t care much for, but not because of the writing. Each story is well crafted and well-written. Overall, the tales were very good.

If you don’t have a lot of time to invest in reading, anthologies are a good place to go. Each story is complete and is good for a quick read when you don’t have time for a novel. I recommend this one for anyone interested in speculative fiction from the perspective of someone on the “Front Lines”.

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Arrows of the Queen… by Mercedes Lackey

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Arrows of the Queen

(The Heralds of Valdemar, Book 1)
by Mercedes Lackey

Published By: DAW Books, Inc.: A Member of Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN-10: 0886773784


Good, but not Spectacular

Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer
on 10/01/2008

Talia would rather die than be wed at the age of thirteen. When she tells her father’s wives that she wants to be a Herald, to be Chosen by the mystical equine Companions, the women are horrified. To Talia’s complete shock, she is found that very day not only by a Companion, but by the most important Companion in the land.

Chosen to be the Queen’s Own Herald by the Companion Rolan, Talia is overwhelmed by a world completely different from oppressive Holder life. Responsibilities far beyond those she imagined are now hers. As Queen’s Own, she is to be the Queen’s confidant. Her far more difficult task is to help reform “the Brat,” the presumed Heir to Valdemar. Certain parties don’t want the Brat to ascend to the throne and will go to extreme measure to see Talia fail. Clearly, there is more going on than young Talia can fathom.

This is the first novel of Mercedes Lackey’s “The Heralds of Valdemar.” She has built a highly detailed and complex world in which readers can be lost for hours. The characters are deep and scenery richly painted.

In this introductory novel, I was pulled in and sucked through to the end. It seems like some scenes may have been cut out to make a page count. This isn’t as big an issue as it is in the next two novels (ARROW’S FLIGHT and ARROW’S FALL), but it may bother the readers who are more particular about such things.

Overall, I recommend it as a good, but not spectacular, fantasy read.

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Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone… by Margie Palatini

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Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone
by Margie Palatini

Published By: Katherine Tegen Books: An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
ISBN-13: 978-0061138980


How Cool is Chic?
Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer
on 09/22/2008

Zoey Zinevich is almost-but-not-quite eleven years old. It’s less than 200 days until sixth grade, which means it’s less than 200 days to get molto chic. If she isn’t by the time sixth grade starts, she will never be cool! That’s what Venus’s (read: Zoey’s magnifico best friend) sister says.

It seems like nothing Zoey and Venus do can get the other kids—especially the Bashleys—to admit they’re cool. What’s not cool about catching bullfrogs, or bowling shirts with fedoras, or owl pellets? Zoey’s only hope lies in getting a fairy godmother. It worked for Cinderella! So what if other ten-almost-eleven-year-old-double-digit kids don’t believe in that kind of stuff anymore?!

This is a very creative middle-grade novel that deals with the preteen’s most pressing concern: coolness. Author Margie Palatini enters into Zoey’s story with great intentions and a sense of offbeat style. Unfortunately, there’s a little too much style. Literally. There are so many font styles and embedded sketches that the pages—just as literally—made my head hurt worse than it already was. The pages are so busy that the reader’s eye jumps helter skelter all over the place. It distracts from the story.

The story is full of heart. It speaks to the basic need for most American preteen girls to fit in with the popular crowd. Zoey is a free spirit who can’t be leashed, and this will become quite apparent, especially toward the end.

The end of the story is one that parents will appreciate, even if it’s a touch unrealistic. Even though the pages are visually busy, I recommend this for all preteen girls.

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Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite!… by Diane deGroat

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Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite!
Written and Illustrated by Diane deGroat

Published By: HarperTrophy: An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
ISBN-13: 978-0061340611


Gilbert’s Camp Story
Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer
on 09/21/2008

Gilbert has his first overnight trip to camp. All his friends are going, as well as some kids that aren’t as nice. Lewis keeps trying to scare Gilbert by telling him Camp Hi-Dee-Ho is haunted. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as ghosts—or are there?

Gilbert’s experience is one that many children face when going to camp for the first—or fifth—time. The fear of the unknown may stem from the kind of teasing Gilbert gets from Lewis, or it may come from the imagination with no prompting. Either way, facing fears is something every child eventually endures.

Diane deGroat handles this fairly well, although, as a mom, I question how Gilbert handles Lewis when the tables are turned. As long as parents remember the importance of reading with their children, they can address whether Gilbert does the right thing. For reference: Gilbert gets even with Lewis for scaring him.

As always with this series, the illustrations are attractively done. Some “spooky” scenes in the middle can be revealed to children as not so scary (i.e.: that tree doesn’t have faces, it has knots and broken-off branches).

This book is a decent pick for children ready to go to camp, and it may also be well-suited to Halloween time.

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Foundation… by Mercedes Lackey

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Foundation
(Valdemar: Collegium Chronicles, Book 1)
by Mercedes Lackey

Published By: DAW Books, Inc.: A Member of Penguin Group (USA)
ISBN-13: 978-0756405243


Set the Foundation for a New Series
Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer
on 09/21/2008

Mags has been a virtual slave in a mine since he was a little tyke. To survive, he scrabbled for food and learned how to dig out “sparklies” to keep the mine owner off his back. The day the Herald arrives is both the most wonderful and most terrifying of Mags’s life. After more than a decade of abuse and neglect, Mags is brought into a new life that defies comprehension. All that keeps him from panic is the gentle white horse with blue eyes… a horse that is as smart as any human… a Companion who has made Mags his Chosen, a future Herald.

Mags and Dallen must travel to Haven, the city where the Heralds are headquartered, and where the Collegium awaits Heraldic Trainees. Mags must overcome thick layers of defense in order to see the world as more than hunger and beatings. If he can, he’ll find more than he imagined possible—both good and dangerous.

From grubby child worker to a Trainee in the middle of growing intrigue, Mags has the chance to do more than most people experience in a lifetime.

There is no doubt that Mercedes Lackey is extraordinarily talented. This novel is imbued with her spirit and a strong sense of justice. Depth of character, setting, and story are all present in this orphan’s tale, opening readers to a new glimmer of understanding of those less fortunate and the appreciation for having what is needed.

There were some holes in the story that were distracting. As someone new to the world of Valdemar, it took some time to understand what constituted the bond between Companion and Chosen. The story is told from Mags’s point of view, so the reader shouldn’t be told everything right away, but there were basic questions I can’t believe Mags didn’t ask of Dallen. Other “holes” are things that I assume to be lead-ins to the next novel in the series.

Overall, I think fans of Mercedes Lackey will find this to their liking. It seems more targeted for a young adult, or even middle school, audience, but it’s a good read whatever your age.

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The Summoning… by Kelley Armstrong

The Summoning
(Darkest Powers, Book 1)
by Kelley Armstrong

Published By: HarperCollinsPublishers
ISBN-13: 978-0061662690


Worth the Read
Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer
on 07/24/2008

Things are looking up for Chloe Saunders. She’s in to the arts-focused high school she’s dreamed of attending. She’s making friends. And nothing weird has happened in a long time.

Until now. On what started out as a normal day, Chloe’s world is shattered. Terrifying ghosts come out of nowhere, and no one believes her. Chloe’s bizarre behavior lands her in a home for troubled teens. Surrounded by other misfits, she soon learns there’s more to everyone’s “troubles” than they realize. Learning the truth behind Lyle House could cost Chloe more than she imagines.

This novel is the first in a new series by bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, in which she brings her fascination with the paranormal to the Young Adult audience. THE SUMMONING blends popular elements of the genre with an interesting spin of its own.

Armstrong presents a well-defined subculture in an otherwise ordinary world. While the plot is a little thin at times, there’s a solid foundation for future installments. Most of the characters have enough depth to keep them interesting, although Chloe seemed like a watered-down version of what her character could be.

This novel offers promise for an enjoyable series. It had a few bumps, but it was fun enough for me to read in less than a day. THE SUMMONING isn’t the strongest book available in the genre, but it is fun and worth a read.

Click here to see the Chloe Saunders website.

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