Category Archives: challenge

Black by Ted Dekker


I read book #0 (Green) of the series with mixed feelings, so I wanted to try book #1 (Black). The fantasy story takes place in two time-periods (current and future) and I really like how the action in both time periods is weaved into one story via the main character, Thomas Hunter – the author does a good job keeping you interested about activities in both timelines. The overall idea and plot is interesting, but I continued to have trouble relating to characters and their actions.

I did enjoy Black more than Green and I think it is a much better series entry point, but I still think the book and the series are “okay”. I’ll go with a fairly weak “recommended” for those who like this type of fantasy.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Book with a one word title.

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

The Oprhan's Tale

The Orphan’s Tale is about two women during the Second World War one of whom is a Jewish circus performer and another who took a Jewish baby from a rail car at a train station and they have to work together at the circus to survive.

I enjoyed the relationship between the two main characters; they had two opposing but believable personalities. I also liked the themes of atonement and survival that are in the novel. The end of the novel was also something I didn’t expect and it left me in tears.

The only problem I have with it is that one of the women has a lover that is kind of stalker-y and it makes you a little uncomfortable.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Madeline Rivard
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2017

A Single Spy by William Christie

A Single Spy

This is the best book I’ve read all summer and may turn out to be my favorite for 2017. The main character, who is difficult to love but fascinating to follow, is a Soviet orphan who takes the street survival skills of the Artful Dodger to a far meaner and more violent level. As a teenager, he’s recruited by the Soviets to impersonate the nephew of a senior Nazi official in Germany. After arriving in Berlin, he later joins the German army, where he becomes an intelligence officer. He winds up spying in the Middle East FOR the Germans, but at the same time, he’s spying ON the Germans for the Soviets.

Building a plot around a double agent can be tricky; I’ve read other “spy thrillers” where I’ve had to double back to make sure I haven’t lost the thread. But Christie does a great job keeping everything straight, which lets the reader focus on one of the best aspects of the book: all the spying and intelligence “trade craft” that Christie works into the plot. Although I seldom read a book twice, I might be compelled to read this a second time just to savor its cleverness. The ending is marvelous but I can’t say more about it without giving too much away.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Mary Hall
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: Published in 2017

Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell

Traitor's Blade

I enjoyed the fantasy novel Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell. The main character is Falcio Val Mond, the First Cantor (leader) of the Greatcoats. The Greatcoats were a group of wandering magistrates who are named for the coat that they wear (which served as armor and storage) and are now disbanded, distrusted, and ridiculed. The backstory is told with periodic flashbacks.

I enjoyed: the dialog (reminds me of the “buddy cop” style movie), learning about sword fighting (“first rule of the sword is put the pointy end into the other man”), the detailed fight scenes, and the plot twist as Falcio completed his quest.

I didn’t like how a couple things were wrapped up at the end with a surprise “intervention” (I’m being deliberately vague) and, although minor, a couple of times I had to re-read because I didn’t realize the book switched to the backstory.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and highly recommend it for people who enjoy fantasy/sword-fighting action. I will likely read more in this series.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: A book published by a small press.

The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

The Golden Lily


The second book in the Bloodlines series that continues the amazing plot lines started in the first book. It also is a great start to what appears to be the main romance of the series. The book is able to balance adventure and romance very well. It is also able to deal with prejudices that exist in this fantasy world and make them relate to the real world.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Taylor Horkan
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: A book with a color in the title

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead



This book is a start to the Bloodlines series. This series is a follow up to Richelle Meads original series Vampire Academy. This book promises a very strong sequel series with a very great set of characters. It really made me want to continue the series.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Taylor Horkan
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge:  A book with a one-word title

Gold Fame Citrus by Clair Vaye Watkins

Gold Fame Citrus

I downloaded Gold Fame Citrus (hereafter GFC) after listening to an EXCELLENT podcast on climate change and literature from On the Media called “Apocalypse, Now.” That’s also were we found Borne. Unlike so much of cli-fi (fiction about the future of climate change on earth), GFC eschews the eschatological lingo of “the flood” [see Atwood’s The Year of the Flood or Waterworld or Robinson’s New York 2140] for the language of desiccation and desertification. In GFC Southern California– and much of the US Southwest– has turned into a massive dune sea called “The Amargosa.” It is in Watkins imaginative descriptions of the Amargosa that this book shines. Like Mord in Vandemeer’s Borne, the Amargosa, while created by human action, is a wild and almost living thing that exerts its influence and even desires without our full understanding or ability to compel. The Amargosa, mirage-like, shimmers into and out of focus and understanding across the short novel’s pages.

Less compelling, from my point of view, are any of the characters in the book. There’s a good bit of old fashioned US Southwest cult fiction in this book, and that’s nice. But the protagonist, who irked me to the point I can’t remember her name right now, is HARD to get behind. My mom tells me this was the point, and that “she’s just a typical millennial.” Maybe my mom has a point, and I am to close to the myopic, selfish, lazy millennial stereotype myself to grok all of that.

Recommend… with a glass of water nearby.

Availability: COSMOS (Print & Audio) USMAI (Print)
Review Submitted by:  Shane D. Hall
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: A book with a color in the title.