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Audiobook Review: “Into a Strange Land” by Ben Anderson

Strange Land is a charming fantasy story that goes into interesting places with creatures that haven’t had the limelight in quite some time.  I enjoyed it.  True, a younger cast indicates a younger target audience, but the story had enough wit and intrigue to keep most audiences engaged.

I enjoyed Strange Land so much, I picked up the second audiobook in the series.  I actually own a few versions as I tend to like to collect multiple editions of the same book.  I’m odd that way.  Sometimes I buy an audio and e-version of a story and sort of race to see which version I get to first.  In this case, the audio version one, so I’ll stick with that format.

The characters are equally adorable and compelling.  This is the main reason I’m rushing to get the audio version of the book as I don’t want to wait to finish what I’m reading (still reading Magic Price if you’re wondering) when I had time to listen to more audiobooks.  This is one way I’m able to keep moving through books at such a fast pace.  I digress:  the most fascinating part for me was the use of leprechauns and gnomes.  Oh sure, we see goblins and dwarfs.  We hear tell of many other magical creatures, but it’s nice to read a fantasy story that doesn’t just regurgitate Tolkien elves and orcs.  I enjoyed Tolkien’s work, but seeing someone go to a different set of lore was a big plus  for me.

This is a solid story that has me wanting to see how it ends.  While Strange Land is clearly the beginning of a series, it doesn’t just drop off in a cliffhanger like some modern dystopian fiction sequences tend to do.  It leaves the reader at an acceptable pause point.  Also, the whole trilogy is available, so there’s no need to wait to see what will happen.

Though the best audience might be younger readers, I think any fan of Irish folklore will find at least something to enjoy with this book.

Red City Review

Red City Review Book Awards

A few months back, I entered “The Journals of Bob Drifter” in the Red City Review Book Awards.  Part of the program is that they provide every entrant with a review.  I’m a huge fan of reviews.  Even the most constructive feedback, even the most negative comments, about my book can help me grow.  This isn’t the case in this review.  Red City Review gave me Five Stars.

I’m incredibly humbled and honored to receive such feedback.  You can check out the full review here.

The contest is still open until Aug. 31.  Finalists will be announced Nov. 1, and the winners will be announced Dec. 1.

Regardless.  A review like that sort of makes me feel like a winner already.

I’ll keep you updated. As the results come in.

Book Review: “Fade to Black” by Tim Mccain and L.T. Vargas

Fade to Black is a darkly humorous tale.  It’s a first-person, present tense narrative about Jeffrey Grobnagger.  I’m honestly glad I picked it up because it’s a quick little tale of loneliness and paranormal intrigue.

I have to be honest about a few things.  The biggest issue was the first person narrative from a character that just want’s to be left alone.  It was a bit difficult to imagine myself listening to a character that didn’t really want to talk to people.  What the first person cost in suspension of disbelief, it gave back in humor value.  After about the half-way point, I stopped caring and just enjoyed the fun.   The other issue is less an actual problem and more of a pet peeve.  I buy a book wanting a beginning, middle and end.  So cliffhangers and I aren’t friends in any way.  I wouldn’t have bought and read this book when I did had I known about it, but I will happily wait for the end of the series (not sure how many books it’s planned for), then sit down to enjoy the whole thing.

Cliffhangers are trend these days.  I should get over it, but I won’t.  I hate with movies.  I didn’t like it with The Knife of Never Letting Go, but I was lucky to have started the series after it had all been written.  Same thing with the Divergent series.  The down-side is I’m not going to pick up the second book, Bled White, or any other book until I know the series is doen.  I will, however, pick up the series once I know everything is told.  If you’re okay with cliffhangers, then don’t wait.  I read the book in a few days, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  This is the kind of book you can read at a good coffee shop or restaurant (I read the majority of it during a WONDERFUL Sunday evening at my favorite local restaurant).

Book Review: “Dance for the Ivory Madonna” by Don Sakers

I must start off by saying speculative science fiction isn’t exactly my most beloved genre.  I have read many Hugo winners (I actually try to read and vote every year.  I also try to read one or two winners a year), and they are well written and have a high degree of interest for me, but good science isn’t enough to hold my attention.

Lucky for me, Dance had a pleasant cast of characters and a few well-woven subplots to keep my reading while throwing hard science or deep backstories at me.  To me, Damien and Penylle make the story what it is, particularly Damien.    I wish I had seen more of Penylle’s plot-line.  I think she has a strength that was hidden a bit by omitting how she got to her position in the story.

For those speculative sci-fi fans foaming at the mouth, Sakers addressed a supernatural element in his story.  He addresses this in his acknowledgements, but what supernatural aspects are in this book are small, and I wouldn’t let it keep you from reading a book that extrapolates so well on a few very prominent world news events (thought this book was released some 10-plus years ago).

Another reason speculative sci-fi and I don’t get along is the occasional direct messaging the reader gets.  I can’t say Sakers didn’t do this, but I can certainly thank him for not going to the lengths that some writers go to.

I just felt it important to mention a few tropes this genre uses that bug this particular reader.  All that said, I found this book very interesting.

Sakers gives readers a solid cast.  The Ivory Madonna gets a lot of face-time, but Damien still carries the book as far as I’m concerned.  The flashback chapters served to give depth to some of the more prominent characters.

As with most books that remind me of Hugo winners, this poses a few fascinating questions, the one that stuck with me (I tend to wait a few days before posting reviews) was societies reliance on technology, particularly the internet.  I’m fond of the internet as it allows me a way to get my opinion out there for you all to see, but it’s fair to wonder what possibilities exist as we drive ourself deeper into the digital age.

Dance is a good story that fans of deep, speculative science fiction should enjoy.

Cover Reveal for Caught

Caught

Scheduled for release Spring, 2016

caughtcover

So I took a lot of time discussing this cover with a  few artists.  I actually had one identified, but life circumstances forced me to search again for a new cover artist, and a few days on Deviant Art led me to Ihor Reshetnikov.  He was able to help me go from an overall concept to the beautiful cover you see above.  Disclaimer, this cover went through a lot of conceptual adaptations.

A lot goes into a cover.  As I learned while working on getting The Journals of Bob Drifter ready, there’s info about the author and the standard book blurb.  Heck so much goes into this that I’m still just wrapping my mind around it.  I originally had a concept for an entire scene from the book.  Ihor dutifully worked on that concept, but the more I thought about what information would have to go on the cover, the more I felt like keeping it simple was the way to go.

From the first draft Ihor sent me, I knew he was right for the job, and I knew this cover was going to be beautiful.  As a photographer myself, I take a lot of pride in understanding what makes a piece of art special.  I feel this is captivating.  It’s a great scene from the book.  It’s haunting.  All-in-all, I feel blessed.

I’m about 70 percent through revisions on the book.  While searching for an agent (which would really change everything), I intend to have this book out sometime in March if everything goes well.  I hope this cover serves to wet some appetites.  I’m really happy with this cover and I can’t wait to see it in print.

Audiobook Review: Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card

After listening to Speaker for the Dead, I couldn’t wait to start Children of the Mind.   I loaded it onto my Kindle, hit play and got rolling.  The book is satisfying.  I have to make sure I put that on the record, but it drops you in after a rather large event, and there is a ton of philosophy education in the beginning that I felt took the momentum of the book away.  I feel that Speaker is far and away the best in the series, but that doesn’t mean Children isn’t worth reading (or in this case listening to).

There are some wonderfully intimate and dramatic moments here.  There are some very rewarding climaxes and a few plot twists that I think readers will enjoy.  I understand (though I’m unfamiliar with the series) there are some other books that fill in some of the gaps, so perhaps readers who take the time to look into the other books in the series, there will be less of a jolt going from Speaker directly to Children.

The characters are a strong point for Card.  The way he uses interaction to show readers who these people are is something I think helps Card stand out.  The dialogue is, as always, snappy and clever.

I don’t make a habit of summarizing the plot, and I won’t here.  I felt it was slow in the beginning, then picked up the pace and enjoyment as it drew closer to the climax (which was worth the price of the book all by itself).

Children leaves at least one question in my mind that I desperately want answered, but it leaves the readers in a good place when it’s all said and done.  Though there are other books in the universe, I find myself most curious to see what happens after Children.  Children gives readers a contemplative, emotional resolution to the Ender’s Quartet.

Audiobook Review for Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

 

For the longest time, I felt guilty as I listened to this book for feeling like I enjoyed this book more than Ender’s Game.  Then Card said himself this was the book.  I felt much better.  Where Ender’s Game was a wonderful story that explored a fascinating premise, Speaker for the Dead had a depth and context that I feel exceeds it’s predecessor.

In terms of audiobooks, I did notice that instead of having a single narrator or a male/female narrator for certain POV chapters, this was closer to a radio reenactment.  The constant shifting from man to woman narrator jarred me a little.

I think the most compelling aspect of this book regarded the idea that everyone has at least one redeeming aspect about them.  It’s heartbreaking every bit as often as heartwarming.  I couldn’t wait to download Children of the Mind once it was finished.

Speaker isn’t an action book.  There are no battle sequences or fast-paced fights.  It’s a well-done drama.  I don’t think I’d feel as strongly about this book if I hadn’t read Ender’s Game, so I recommend anyone looking to try out the series do that.  I won’t go so far as to say the book loses it’s interest if you don’t read Ender’s Game.  I only assert that I have a stronger investment in the plot and characters having read it.

Speaker offers readers and incredibly touching sequel that pulls the heartstrings.  In my opinion, it’s the best of Card’s work.

Audiobook Review The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett

 

I was introduced to Peter V. Brett when I read “Mud Boy” as part of the Unfettered Anthology.  One of the things I love most about audiobooks is that they allow me to increase how many books I can go through.  I don’t read nearly as much as I like, but the power of audiobooks allows me to try out new authors and keep up with series I love.  I use them to refresh my memory before a new book in a series comes out too.

So I read “Mud Boy” and thought the world was interested.  Then I listened to “The Warded Man.”  Let me be absolutely clear about something regarding Peter V. Brett.  He is the best in the business when it comes to character.  He’s better than Martin.  I said better, and I didn’t blink when I said it.  Every story Brett brings to life gives more depth and sympathy to every character, and “The Skull Throne” is no different.

Like the rest of the series, The Skull Throne takes a character and expands on it, in this case Ashia.  We don’t miss anything from any on the other characters we love, but I have to stop there as this book is full of spoilers.

“The Daylight War” left me angry due to the cliffhanger.  I’m not a fan of those personally.  Skull Throne literally picks up where that left off and has a more satisfying ending.  Of course it’s not the end of the series, but it gives the reader a better resting place.  I anticipate Brett getting more and more readers, which means more and more people clamoring for him to finish the next book.  I’m personally upset I can’t travel forward in time to find out what happens next.

This book provides answers to questions posed in Daylight War, then turns everything on its head.  Hold on to your seats, because this book has everything you could want, including a few shocking twists.  I was hooked from the beginning, but this book made it impossible to wait for the next.

Book Review: Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

I’m never a fan of short fiction, but I’m also never let down by anything written by Sanderson. Oddly enough, I felt this novella started off a bit slow. Sanderson is still a master of the twist with this book being another shining example. I consider the questions this book poses Hugo worthy. It takes a lot of skill to build sympathy for a character in short fiction. I found myself more connected to Kai than I anticipated. The only letdown I have is that the story ends appropriately, but not satisfyingly for my taste. Don’t take that to mean it negatively. I found myself imaging sequels and other mini adventures for Kai or even a larger book. I don’t know if that’s the intent or not. I just thought there was a lot of ground there to play with. The ending completes the story with one exception that I can’t mention due to spoilers. I’d still recommend this to anyone, especially those eagerly awaiting Shadows of Self or even Stormlight 3. I stand by my thought that this novella deserves Hugo consideration. For readers who enjoy stories that pose bigger questions, this story as them in spades. This wasn’t as entertaining as, say, Shadows for Silence, but it was every bit as interesting.