Recommended Reading

What have you been reading lately? Below are various reviews and opinions of what our staff and members have been reading lately and believe are worth sharing.

Would you like to recommend a book? Email us at with your book recommendation, and a few paragraphs of what you enjoyed about the book and author and explain why you would recommend it to readers.


Devon Monk – Allie Beckstrom Series #5

DevonMonk_MagicAtTheGate170Title: Magic at the Gate
Author: Devon Monk
Publisher: Roc Fantasy: Penguin
Release Date: 2010
Price: $7.99
Purchase at: PowellsAmazonBarnes & Nobles

First Sentence: Sure, love can make a person do crazy things.

Back cover blurb: Allison Beckstrom is a Hound: She uses her magic to find unscrupulous magicians and stop them from harming innocents with their power. But every time she casts a spell, she places her mind, body, and soul at the mercy of magic, which uses her as much as she uses it…

Allie’s lover, Zayvion Jones, is a guardian of the gates, imbued with both light and dark magic, and responsible for ensuring those energies don’t mix. But Zayvion lies in a coma, his soul trapped in death’s realm.

To rescue him, Allie must follow the specter of her deceitful late sorcerer father, Daniel Beckstrom, who is more than familiar with death’s domain. And when Allie discovers that the only way to save Zayvion is to sacrifice her very own magical essence, she makes a decision that may have grave consequences for the entire world…


Devon Monk – Allie Beckstrom Series #4

DevonMonk_MagicOnTheStorm170Title: Magic on the Storm
Author: Devon Monk
Publisher: Roc Fantasy: Penguin
Release Date: 2010
Price: $7.99
Purchase at: PowellsAmazonBarnes & Nobles

First Sentence: Two months of self-defense classes, mixed martial arts, and weapons training did not make it hurt any less when I was thrown over my opponent’s shoulder and slammed into the ground.

Back cover blurb: Magic stirred in me…I closed my eyes, wanting to lose myself to it. Wanting to use magic in every way I could. But that would be bad. I had enough magic inside me; I could burn down a city. And I didn’t want to do that.

Allison Beckstrom knows better than most theat when magic’s involved, you always pay. Whether the price is migraines, amnesia, or muscle aches, she is committed to her work as a Hound, tracing illegal spells back to their casters. But her job is about to get much more dangerous.

There’s a storm of apocalyptic force bearing down on Portland, and when it hits, all the magic in the area will turn unstable and destructive. To stop it from taking out the entire city, Allie and her lover, the mysterious Zayvion Jones, must work with the Authority-the enigmatic arbiters of all things magic-and make a stand against a magical wild storm that will obliterate all in its path.


Devon Monk – Allie Beckstrom Series #3

DevonMonk_MagicInTheShadows170Title: Magic in the Shadows
Author: Devon Monk
Publisher: Roc Fantasy: Penguin
Release Date: 2009
Price: $7.99
Purchase at: PowellsAmazonBarnes & Nobles

First Sentence: Rush hour traffic below my apartment window breathed a deep note behind the rise and fall of winter wind.

Back cover blurb: Using magic wasn’t as easy as the actors made it look in the movies. Every time you use magic, it uses you back. Sure, you could magic yourself a photographic memory for that big test, for that big interview, for that big stock market job. And all it cost you was a nice case of liver failure. Or the memory of your lover’s name.

Magic is Allison Beckstrom’s blessing and curse. As a Hound, she uses her gifts to track down practitioners who abuse their power, and then stops them from inflicting harm on unsuspecting innocents. Unfortunately her spells have taken a toll on her, physically marking her and erasing her memories-including those of the man she supposedly loves.

But lost memories aren’t the only things preying on Allie’s thoughts. Her late father, the prominent businessman-and sorcerer-Daniel Beckstrom, has somehow channeled himself into her mind. With the help of the Authority, a secret organization of magic users, she hopes to gain better control over her own abilities-and find a way to deal with her father…


Devon Monk – Allie Beckstrom Series #2

DevonMonk_MagicInTheBlood170Title: Magic in the Blood
Author: Devon Monk
Publisher: Roc Fantasy: Penguin
Release Date: 2009
Price: $7.99
Purchase at: PowellsAmazonBarnes & Nobles

First Sentence: I dunked my head under the warm spray of the shower and rubbed shampoo into my hair, wondering where my next Hounding job, and paycheck, were coming from.

Back cover blurb: Magic stirred in me, offering whatever I wanted. With little more than a thought and a gesture or two, I could make magic do anything. So long as I was willing to pay the price…

Allison Beckstrom knows better than most that when magic’s involved, nothing is free. She’s had to pay its price of migraines and forgetfullness while working as a Hound, tracing illegal spells back to their casters. And even though magic has stolen her recent memory-including her history with the man she supposedly fell in love with-Allie isn’t about to give up on Hounding or the city she cares about.

Then the police’s magic enforcement division asks her to consult on what seems to be a straightforward missing-persons case. But what begins as a way to make rent leads Allie into grave danger when the trail she’s follwing draws her into the dark underworld of criminals, ghosts, and blood magic. There, Allie discovers it will take more than just magic to survive.


Devon Monk – Allie Beckstrom Series #1

DevonMonk_MagicToTheBone170Title: Magic to the Bone
Author: Devon Monk
Publisher: Roc Fantasy: Penguin
Release Date: 2008
Price: $7.99
Purchase at: Powells; Amazon; Barnes & Nobles

First Sentence: It was the morning of my twenty-fifth birthday, and all I wanted was a decent cup of coffee, a hot breakfast, and a couple hours away from the stink of used magic that seeped through the walls of my apartment building every time it rained.

Back cover blurb: Using magic meant it used you back. Forget the fairy-tale, hocus-pocus, wave a wand and bling-o, sparkles and pixie dust crap. Magic, like booze, sex, and drugs, gave as good as it got.

Everything has a cost. And every act of magic exacts a price from its user-maybe a two-day migraine, or losing the memory of your first kiss. But some people want to use magic without paying, and they Offload the cost onto innocents. When that happens, it fall to a Hound to identify the spell’s caster-and Allison Beckstrom’s the best there is.

Daughter of a prominent Portland businessman, Allie would rather moonlight as a Hound than accept the family fortune-and the strings that come with it. But when she discovers a little boy dying from a magic Offload that has her father’s signature all over it, Allie is thrown into the high-stakes world of corporate espionage and black magic.

Now Allie’s out for the truth-and must call upon forces that will challenge everything she knows, change her in ways she could never imagine…and make her capable of things that powerful people will do anything to control.


Kit Campbell – Shards

Shards_Cover_small_2Title: Shards
Author: Kit Campbell
Publisher: Turtleduck Press
Release Date: 2013
Price: $13.99 (Print); $3.99 (Kindle)
Purchase at: Smashwords; Amazon (Print); Amazon (Kindle); Signed Print ($15)

First Sentence: Waking up to the phone ringing was probably a bad start to the day.

Back cover blurb: Eva Martinez isn’t sure why she’s pursuing a Master’s degree in religious studies, except that something about the material resonates in the depths of her soul. But when her dreams start to be invaded by lost gardens, forbidden fruit, and a strangely familiar mystery man, even she has to wonder if she’s taking her schoolwork too seriously.

Then Eva starts to notice the strangeness seeping into everyday life. The man from her dreams is real and Eva feels a curious connection with him. Her classmate, someone she’s known for years, starts to act increasingly volatile. And it seems like everyone, including her bosses, is keeping secrets… secrets that have something to do with her. Eva’s determined to find out what’s going on, how it involves her, and why she’s transforming into someone buried deep in her memories.

The deeper in that Eva gets, the more she feels like she should understand what’s happening around her. The secrets conceal real dangers, and if she can’t untangle them and find the truth in time, she-and all those she’s come to care for-will face defeat at the hands of an ancient enemy, one who recognized Eva long before she learned to recognize herself.


Karen Miller – Kingmaker, Kingbreaker Series

KingmakerKingbreakerTitle: The Innocent Mage – Kingmaker, Kingbreaker Book 1
Author: Karen Miller
Publisher: Orbit: Hachette Book Group
Release Date: 2005
Price: $7.99
Purchase at: Books-A-Million; Amazon

First Sentence: Nine hundred and ninety-seven… nine hundred and ninety-eight… nine hundred and ninety-nine… one thousand!

Inner teaser: Without thinking, Asher jumped into the path of the frightened horse.
A lifetime of sailing boats in untamed weather had honed his reflexes and made him indifferent to danger. Catching those flapping reins was just like laying hold of a loose halyard in high winds; battling the beast to a standstill not much harder than wrestling with a net-load of fish reluctant to die.
And besides, it seemed a shame for a fine animal like that to break a slender leg just ’cause some royal folderol couldn’t keep his arse in the saddle.
“It’d be fine, I reckon,” he said, determined that this elegantly clad prince was a man, like him, who pissed farted same as all men did, and had nothing more special to recommend him than an expensive tailor “Don’t seem like the beast’s taken any harm, barren’ a fright.”
The prince glanced up at him. A flicker of recognition lit his eyes and he nodded. Standing straight, he looped the reins over one arm and then dusted his hands on his breeches. “So it would appear, Barl be praised.” He kissed the solid gold hollering on his left forefinger. “He was a gift from His Majesty.”
A grand gift,” said Asher. “Glad I could save ‘I’m for you. I be fine too, by the way. You know. ‘Case you were wonderin’.”
Back cover blurb: “The Innocent Mage is come, and we stand at the beginning of the end of everything.”
Being a fisherman like his father isn’t a bad life, but it’s not the one that Asher wants. Despite his humble roots, Asher has grand dreams. And they call him to Dorana, home of princes, beggars…and the warrior mages who have protected the kingdom for generations.
Little does Asher know, however, that his arrival in the city is being closely watched by members of the Circle, people dedicated to preserving an ancient magic.
Asher might have come to the city to make his fortune, but he will find his destiny.

Title: The Awakened Mage – Kingmaker, Kingbreaker Book 2

Author: Karen Miller
Publisher: Orbit: Hachette Book Group
Release Date: 2006
Price: $6.99
Purchase at: Books-A-Million; Amazon

First Sentence: With one callused hand shading his eyes, Asher stood on the Tower’s sandstone steps and watched the touring carriage with its royal cargo and Master Magician Durm bowl down the driveway, sweet around the bend in the road and disappear from sight.
Inner teaser: As Asher left the stable yard, frowning, a nasty thought occurred.
Yesterday Gar had gone to his family’s crypt to create the effigies. But that wouldn’t have taken all day and night. Not unless-
-unless something had gone horribly wrong.
Brisk walking turned into a fast jog, then an all-out run as he headed for House Torvig’s private burial vault. He was panting, streaming sweat, by the time he reached it. Glimfire still burned in the passageways; not a good sign. He took four wrong turns before finally stumbling into the small gimlet room Gar had selected to house the coffins.
He found his king sprawled facedown on the flag-stone floor.
Back cover blurb: “The evil foretold has risen…and we are all that stands between it and the end.”
Asher has come a long way for a fisherman’s son. Together with his friend Prince Gar, he has defended their kingdom against its bitterest enemy, but at great cost.
Now, the evil mage Morg is preparing for his most deadly assault. And this victory would be particularly sweet-for who better to destroy the kingdom than the two who would give anything to save it?


Devon Monk – Dead Iron

Dead_Iron-1-jpeg-e1292518925972Book Title: Dead Iron: The Age of Steam
Book Author: Devon Monk
Book Publisher: Roc-A Penguin imprint
Release Date: 2011

Retail Price: $15.00 (print); $5.99 (digital)
Purchase At: Books-A-Million; Amazon

First Sentence: Cedar had stared straight into the killing eyes of rabid wolves, hungry bears, and charging bull elk, but Mrs. Horace Small had them all topped.
Back Cover Teaser: Although the devisers have civilized the East with their contraptions, civilization hasn’t tamed the frontier that bounty hunter Cedar Hunt rides. Cursed by lycanthropy and carrying the guilt of his brother’s death, he’s a hard man for hire. But when a trio of miners offers him the possibility that his brother may yet survive. Cedar isn’t going to haggle for payment. All he has to do for them is find the Holder, a powerful device created by mad devisers from the realm of the Strange.

The Holder is in the hands of Shard Lefel, a dandified railroad tycoon who has come to Hallelujah, Oregon, promising a civilized tomorrow. But what Cedar doesn’t know is that Lefel is an ancient Strange banished to walk this land for centuries. Now nearing the end of his sentence. Lefel is desperately searching for a way to fend off his own mortality-and the Holder may be the key.

In a land shaped by magic, steam, and iron, where the only thing a man can count on is his guns, gears, and grit, Cedar will have to depend on all three if he’s going to save his brother and reclaim his soul once and for all.

Review: I’ve had this book in my to-be-read pile for longer than I’d care to admit, which is a shame as this is one of my favorite authors. Monk’s Age of Steam series has some parallels to her Allie Beckstrom series. Both have paranormal power systems, although this one is a lot more vague and mysterious. There appear to be gods, the Strange, mineral powered WMDs, and more.

As with her other series, Monk weaves a book-long story arc with a half dozen sub stories helping and hindering the main characters. There are several sub stories that I bet will grow in the sequels. The characters are introduced a half dozen or so at a time with no seeming correlation to each other, it’s not until a few chapters in that everything starts merging and characters start finding their ways to each other.

Battling a deposed god with ‘matics a lycanthropic duo that reminds me almost of the Lady Hawk scenario with the two wolves and when they can be human. There’s the mysterious trio of miners that know way more than they let on. And as there’s now a Strange / ‘matic powered WMD scattered across who knows how far across the lands, I’m curious to see how long this series will extend to wrap up all the various threads. If it’ll be anything like the Allie Beckstrom series it’s gonna be a wild ride and well worth the read.

All in all, I definitely recommend grabbing this book, and it’s a safe bet you’ll want to pick up the sequels Tin Swift and  Cold Copper for good measure. I know I’ll be grabbing them when next I can. If you’re more for magic over steam powered tech, Devon Monk’s Allie Beckstrom nine-book series (with an upcoming spin-off book series based on two secondary characters).


Lauren Leto – Judging a Book by Its Lover

13623953Book Titles: Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere
Book Author: Lauren Leto
Book Publisher: Harper Perennial
Release Dates: 2012

Retail Prices: $14.99 (print); $9.99 (ebook)
Purchase at: Books-A-Million ; Amazon

First sentence: The first book I ever loved was a book about a monster in a child’s heart.
Back cover teaser: Want to impress the hot stranger at the bar who asks for your take on Infinite Jest? Dying to shut up the blowhard in front of you who’s pontificating on Cormac McCarthy’s “recurring road narratives”? Having difficulty keeping Francine prose and Annie Proulx straight?

For all those overwhelmed readers who need to get a firm grip on the relentless onslaught of must-read books to stay on top of the inevitable conversations that swirl around them, Lauren Leto’s Judging a Book by Its Lover is manna from literary heaven! A hilarious send-up of—and inspired homage to—the passionate and peculiar world of book culture, this guide to literary debate leaves no reader or author unscathed, at once adoring and skewering everyone from Jonathan Franzen to Ayn Rand to Dostoyevsky and the people who read them.

Review: I purchased this book on a whim. The title and concept amused me. Then, I started reading and couldn’t put it down. Leto put the right amount of snark and blunt truth in here as she cycled through books and readers alike. I admit there were more books on this list that I have yet to read than having read.

The “What Your Child Will Grow Up to Be…” chapter was especially entertaining. The “A Gift Guide by a Bad Gift Giver”  was very telling and explains a bit about some people I know. Although I’m curious why so many people have trouble getting through Sophie’s World. I found that book incredibly interesting and mentally engaging. And according to the “Stereotyping People by Favorite Author” chapter, I am apparently a person who “drinks old-fashionds.”

Overall, this is a book to read a chapter or two when there’s a free moment. You’re free to jump around as the chapters don’t follow a sequential order to worry about. I recommend it for readers who have a good sense of humor and appreciate some snark in regards to what readers enjoy and why. It’s worth a perusal while on a subway ride, or while waiting for an appointment. Basically when there’s a spare fifteen to twenty minutes kicking around to read.


Jason Deeble – Monster Haikus

Book Titles: The First 100 Strips; Carpe Demon
Book Author: Jason Deeble
Book Publisher: N/A
Release Dates: 2011; 2012
Retail Prices: $9.99









I came upon Monster Haikus thanks to Connecticut ComiConn 2013 and Mr. Deeble being on the vendor list. The concept sounded too good to pass up and I’m glad I took the time to hunt down his booth while at the convention.

The basic concept boils down to: Eight monsters, three lines, seventeen syllables – endless possibilities. Just as the book cover teases. There are hundreds of 4 panel strips with varying combinations of his monsters. Each strip is a single haiku, usually a clever play on words, or amusing exchanges between the characters.

Like most books compiling comic strips, they’re quick reads, but well worth it. If you’re really strapped for time, you could just rad a handful of strip over at Monster Haiku. Mr. Deeble updates Monday through Friday.

There’s currently three books in print. The First 100 Strips, Carpe Demon, and Greatest Hits. All three are available on Monster Haiku. He also has a plushy Gil-the fishyman monster of the group. It’s adorably grumpy looking.