The giveaway for the ARC of Department Nineteen is now over, and a winner has been selected with the help of  The winner is:

Vivienne from Oregon

Congratulations!  I hope you enjoy the book!


The Hero Strikes Back is the second book in the Lee and Taro series by Moira J. Moore.  The first book in this series is Resenting the Hero, and the books following the second book are Heroes Adrift, Heroes at Risk, and Heroes Return, respectively.  A sixth book, Heroes at Odds, is scheduled for release on July 26 of this year.

Please note that since this is the second book in a series, there will be some spoilers for Resenting the Hero.  If you are wary of spoilers but curious about these books, here is my review of the first book.

At the start of the previous book, Lee and Taro were thrown together for the purpose they’ve been training for since they were still children – forming two parts of a balanced Pair who work together for the good of the people.  Taro, a Source, has the ability to prevent natural disasters. As a Shield, Lee has the ability to protect his mind while he does this.  In a world where earthquakes, cyclones, and other cataclysmic weather is all too common, they and other Pairs are an important asset whose lives are dedicated to this duty.  Through the magical link, they are quite literally stuck with each other for life, whether they like it or not.

Although she was initially unhappy to be bonded to Taro, Lee has now accepted that she is and has even forged a friendship with him.  The two are once again working together in High Scape – or at least they would be if there were any natural disasters to be found.  Instead, the city is experiencing snow in the middle of summer, a type of weather the Pairs have no ability to control.  Since the average person understands very little about Sources and Shields, they are rather upset with the Pairs.  They believe the Pairs have a responsibility to help them and are simply refusing to do their jobs, resulting in lots of businesses failing due to this strange occurrence.  As the wintry summer continues, these feelings only escalate more out of control, making it very unpleasant – and even dangerous – to be a Source or a Shield in High Scape.

Furthermore, some nobles have been disappearing lately, which Lee finds rather worrisome even though Taro chose to give up his lordship. However, the two soon have more immediate concerns resulting directly from Taro’s abdication of his title after this news reaches his mother. In response to this travesty, she comes to visit, which dredges up all sorts of unpleasant childhood memories for Taro.  Unfortunately for everyone involved, she’s not going away anytime soon, either – since Taro is her only remaining direct descendant, she is quite insistent he reclaim his place and prepared to get her way any way she can.

Just like with the first book in this series, I had a lot of fun reading The Hero Strikes Back.  When I read this I was in the mood for a diverting, easy to read but difficult to put down sort of book, and this fit my mood perfectly.  These novels have a very addictive quality, and I ended this one wishing I had the next one available so I could find out what happens to Lee and Taro next.  I enjoyed both the first and second books in this series about equally – learning about the world and the Pair bond for the first time was the highlight of the first book for me, and learning about the characters in this book was the best part.

In some ways, these books remind me of an urban fantasy style in a secondary world fantasy setting.  The language is more modern and it’s got a lot of focus on character interaction, plus each of these first two books culminated in a mystery that had to be resolved.  Lee’s not an investigator nor is she (or any of her friends) kickass, though; it’s more that things just happen and she ends up involved somehow.  She was curious about certain occurrences and she had some ideas about them in this book, but she wasn’t really actively going out of her way to seek answers so it didn’t quite feel like a mystery even though there was some suspense about just what was going on.

Although I mentioned this in my review of the first book, I have to mention it again since it remained consistent with this book: I just love how the society in this series seems so effortlessly gender equal.  We’re never told that this sort of equality exists; it’s just the way it is.  Sons or daughters can be in line for titles passed through families, and there’s no dividing line between who can be in certain professions based on gender.  Whether they’re Sources or Shields, nobility, or a Runner, it really doesn’t seem to matter if a person is male or female.

The idea of Sources and Shields and the way they balance each other out is also delightful.  Shields tend to be more reserved, both by nature and by training, so that they can effectively guard the Sources, who tend to be more emotional and open with their feelings.  As the narrator, Lee certainly has opinions but she often keeps them between herself and the reader (which irritates Taro, who wishes she could just express herself when she’s annoyed with him instead of keeping it all inside).  It’s a dynamic that keeps things interesting, and the way Taro and Lee’s relationship is developing is great fun to read about as well.  In the first book, Lee had to get past her prejudices about Taro’s reputation.  Now she respects him and is on quite good terms with him. Although she seems to be in love with him, she can’t let herself do that because she still thinks the rumors about his womanizing ways are correct.  She still has to try to be logical and in control of her feelings.  It’s also quite obvious that Taro – who has no qualms about being in control of his emotions – loves her, too, but she can’t believe someone like him could ever love someone like her.

This particular book delves more into Taro’s past and reveals much about why he acts the way he does through conversations with his visiting mother.  It’s obvious he doesn’t like his mother from the start, but it also becomes quite clear he has good reason not to.  In contrast, Lee’s mother visits at the same time and they have some more common familial problems. Lee’s mother thinks her daughter should be better dressed and tries to set her up with a man she’s not really interested in.  Part of these issues are due to less common causes, though, such as the fact that Lee left home at 4 years of age to become a Source and her mother’s inability to relate to her more reserved daughter.  The inclusion of these family relationships fleshed out both Lee and Taro’s pasts some more, plus it was great fun to meet both of their mothers.

The Hero Strikes Back is as entertaining as the first book in the Lee and Taro series.  I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens next as well as seeing how the main characters’ relationship progresses.  The backdrop of the world plagued by natural disasters and the people who developed the ability to counteract them is also rather intriguing, and I’m hoping to learn more about the origins of both of these in future novels.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Reviews of other books in this series:

Other reviews of The Hero Strikes Back:

Badass: The Birth of a Legend
by Ben Thompson
384pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.17/5

Badass: The Birth of a Legend is by Ben Thompson, who has been running the website Badass of the Week since 2004.  He has also written numerous articles on badasses, and this is his second book on the subject.  The first book published on this topic, Badass, is about various figures from history (and is perhaps the most awesome use of a degree in history ever).  The newest book, which just came out last week, is about various tough men, women, gods, goddesses, and creatures from mythology, folklore, literature, movies, and television.

The book is divided into 4 main sections:

  1. Gods, Goddesses, and Other Kickass Celestial Beings
  2. Heroes, Heroines, and Over-the-Top Do-Gooders
  3. Villains, Sorcerers, Antiheroes, and Psychotic Merciless Bastards
  4. Monsters, Fiends, Hellspawn, and Worse

Each of these 4 sections  focuses on 10 main characters (or in a few cases groups of people or monsters), and some of them feature a little bit more information on a related topic at the end of the section.  For instance, one of the featured characters is Baba Yaga and at the end it also has a short piece on another figure from Russian folklore, Koschei the Deathless.  Sometimes these are more loosely related, such as Thor’s chapter being followed with a little bit on figures from mythology whose names appear in Final Fantasy summon spells.

Subjects covered are drawn from a wide variety of sources throughout the world, including everything from myths and legends from various cultures, classic literature, pop culture, and even cartoons from the 1980s.  Some of the highlighted figures include but are not limited to:

  • Oya (African goddess)
  • Anubis (Egyptian god)
  • Huitzilopochtli (Aztec god)
  • Finn McCool (Irish leader of the Fianna Knights)
  • Bradamant (female medieval knight from the Orlando Furioso)
  • Professor Moriarty (nemesis of Sherlock Holmes)
  • Sauron (Middle Earth’s ultimate villain)
  • Darth Vader (the universe’s ultimate villain)
  • El Chupacabra (mysterious blood-sucking creature)
  • Frankenstein’s monster from Mary Shelley’s classic novel
  • Skeletor from He-Man
  • Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek
  • Skuld, a Norse necromancer and queen
  • Dragons

It’s quite a diverse list, and this isn’t even half of what is included.

Badass: The Birth of a Legend is a very fun book, especially if you’re the sort of person who can get into reading about virtually all-powerful beings who can defeat just about anyone or anything they are up against.  It uses the words “awesome” and “hardcore” practically every chapter [Ed: I’d say paragraph…] and occasionally goes on tangents – such as about how Skeletor should really ride his giant panther more often and how the author would ride his humongous wildcat to the grocery store if he had one.  (I can’t say I disagree with this sentiment.)  There are times the author tries a little too hard to be over-the-top funny, but there are also quite a large number of times when it’s really hilarious.  Also, it can be rather crude, partially due to various mythological stories having a fascination with private parts and partially to the author’s repeated references to them.  Overall, I found it pretty thoroughly entertaining, but don’t go to this book looking for any in depth anthropological studies of the character from myths–it is exactly what it is intended to be, a fun ride told with attitude.

My favorite chapters were easily any of the ones that dealt with mythology because they would usually discuss the legends the characters were involved in that made them so extraordinarily badass.  Aside from that, it might even tell some about their origins or other interesting stories concerning them, such as the beginnings of the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli, whose mother wore a snake skirt (or, as Thompson interprets the legend, a scaly chastity belt) and whose father was a ball of feathers.  This was one of the more intriguing myths – the Aztecs were a rather creative culture.

Although I did enjoy the literature parts (like Frankenstein’s monster and the little bit about how Mary Shelley wrote her classic novel on a dare), I didn’t find the TV and movie sections quite as fascinating.  I was a little disappointed by the lack of Xena Warrior Princess since she is the epitome of television badasses in my book (with the fact that she could kick just about anyone’s butt and do, well, pretty much anything), but I also think it was good to provide a bit more variety since Greek mythology was already pretty well covered in all 4 major sections of the book.  TV was a chance to cover some different types of stories and drew from Star Trek, Dr. Who, He-Man, and The A-Team.

Also, it was a welcome opportunity to learn about some tough women I hadn’t heard of before, such as Bradamant of Clairmont.  Bradamant was a knight from the Orlando Furioso, written in the sixteenth century.  She was not in need of anyone to protect her – she rescued her boyfriend and was a pretty powerful heroine in general.  Another interesting kickass woman was the Norse necromancer Skuld.  She was the sister of the titular character from The Saga of Hrulf Kraki and defeated him by calling forth a horde of Viking zombies.

The creepiest characters were easily the ones based on urban legends since there are reports of people who actually encountered them.  Now I think Detroit is one of the most terrifying places on the earth and could never go there for fear of seeing a red dwarf and then dying a horrible death.  Likewise, I’m now haunted by the thought of El Chupacabra once again, having forgotten about being freaked out of my mind after seeing it on Unsolved Mysteries years ago.  This creature kills and sucks the blood out of living beings, but fortunately, it seems fondest of goats.

Badass: The Birth of a Legend is a very fun book – it’s not incredibly thought-provoking although it does provide an opportunity to learn a little about different world myths as well as some useless knowledge such as the existence of St. Skeletor’s Day.  It can be crass at times, and some of the attempts at humor do fall flat, but other times it can be laugh-out-loud funny.  It’s a very readable, chatty sort of book covering all kinds of tough men, women, and creatures from fiction of all kinds.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.


There’s no leaning pile post today since I bought no books this past week, and the only review copy I received was a second copy that I’m now giving away.  Over the next week I will hopefully have at least two reviews since I have one draft and another halfway written (for Badass: The Birth of a Legend by Ben Thompson and The Hero Strikes Back by Moira J. Moore, both very fun books).

I’m reading Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, which is coming out on Tuesday, and I’m hoping to have a review of that sometime next week as well but we’ll have to see about that since I haven’t even finished it yet.  Right now I’ve read a little more than half of it, and it is fantastic so far.  It’s based on the Russian folktale of Koschei the Deathless, and it’s different from Valente’s other two books I’ve read, mostly because the prose isn’t as elaborate and it’s more of a straightforward tale (although it is still beautifully written; it just has a lot less description and imagery and more dialogue than her other two books I’ve read).  I loved The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden and I also really enjoyed The Habitation of the Blessed, but Deathless is in the running for being my favorite of the three if the rest of it is as wonderful as the first half (I do have a real soft spot for fairy tale retellings and stories based on myths and legends).

I’m undecided as to what I’ll be reading and reviewing after that one.  Since I’m reading a review copy now, I’ll read a book that’s not a review copy.  Right now I’m leaning toward reading Eon by Alison Goodman, but I might read The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro since the new books Carnelians is coming out in October and I’d kind of like to get caught up with the series before then (or at least caught up with the books I should read before that one since I still haven’t read two of the prequels).


In response to the horrific recent events in Japan, some members of the speculative fiction community created Genre for Japan.  Starting on March 28, they will be auctioning items related to science fiction, fantasy, and horror and donating the proceeds to the Japan Tsunami Appeal run by the British Red Cross.  It’s a win/win situation since it’s a wonderful cause and there are some pretty great items available, such as a year’s supply of Tor Books and a special, limited edition proof copy of China Mieville’s The City and the City.

It was pretty exciting to see this video interview, in which Neil Gaiman talks about the Good Omens TV series that’s in progress.

Jacqueline Carey announced in her March update that she’s contracted for three books in a new not-quite-urban fantasy series with the possible title Pemkowet Tales. It will be interesting to see what she does with it.  (In addition to Naamah’s Blessing in June, she also has Saints Astray, the Santa Olivia sequel, coming out in November this year.  Hooray!)

Today Gail Carriger announced she has a four book YA series beginning in 2012.  The Finishing School series is set 25 years before her Parasol Protectorate series.

This week I received a second ARC of Department Nineteen by Will Hill from Penguin so I’m giving it away!

Department NineteenJamie Carpenter’s life will never be the same. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous man named Frankenstein. Jamie is brought to Department 19, where he is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing and the other survivors of Dracula. Aided by Frankenstein’s monster, a beautiful vampire girl with her own agenda, and the members of the agency, Jamie must attempt to save his mother from a terrifyingly powerful vampire.

Department 19 takes us through history, across Europe, and beyond – from the cobbled streets of Victorian London to prohibition-era New York, from the icy wastes of Arctic Russia to the treacherous mountains of Transylvania. Part modern thriller, part classic horror, it’s packed with mystery, mayhem, and a level of suspense that makes a Darren Shan novel look like a romantic comedy.

Giveaway Rules: This giveaway is only open to those with a US mailing address.  The contest will end on March 31, and a winner will be randomly selected on April 1.  To enter, fill out the form below.  Good luck!

Note: Since the contest is now over, the form has been removed.