Book Review: A Line in the Sand by K. A. Stewart (Four Stars)

Book Review: A Line in the Sand by K. A. Stewart

Four Stars

“The only reason I’m alive is because I listen when my heebie jeebie alarm goes off.”

The rating is provisional. The Jesse James Dawson novels have a chronology but can  be read independently. In fact, Stewart does a better-than-average job informing the new reader without insulting returnees. This volume, however, explicitly demands another. But, unlike so many others, this book includes a satisfying conclusion to the current work.

“My first defense is always sarcasm.”

Stewart once again proves herself the master of tongue-in-cheek urban fantasy with a soul. (Pun intended; read the book.) Her mix of the banal and the fantastic manages to come down squarely on the side of Continue reading

Book Review: Music Box Girl by R. A. Dawson (Three Stars)

Book Review: Music Box Girl by K. A. Stewart

Three Stars

(Warning: There be spoilers here.)

“We gravitate toward disaster.”

Phantom of the Opera starring R. Daneel Olivaw. Too obscure? How ‘bout C3PO?

Great concept, borrowing liberally from Phantom and Pygmalion, Frankenstein, and Aladdin. Was wavering between four and five star ratings until I reached the climax. If it’d been a book (rather than an iPad), I’d have thrown it against the wall. You’ve got to be kidding. Syrupy and illogical for starters.

“Life is too short to censor oneself.”

It shouldn’t be too short to proofread one’s writing however. Parts read like a rough draft. Awkward sentence structures and confusing antecedents. Not to mention the ending. Stewart can do better.

“Age brings perspective.”

Don’t see that happening to the main human characters. Yes, Tony, you should have told them, but if you’d had a brain there wouldn’t have been a story. Still, this has great potential as a movie. The Marvel crowd would love it, silly ending and all.

“You never know when there won’t be a ‘later.’”

A thought: aficionados of science fiction are so used to Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics that we forget those are just one man’s construct. Stewart reminds us that robots–even self-aware robots–know nothing of empathy or compassion. They focus on effectiveness and efficiency. If human beings happen to get in the way, they get crushed.

“Sometimes you just couldn’t wait for Spring.”

Book Review: The Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Emperor’s Railroad (Dreaming Cities, #1) by Guy Haley

Three Stars

“The future is ashes, the past is treasure. When you get where I am the past’ll look brighter to you as well.”

A finely-told novella about a dystopic future with zombies. Normally, I would have quit before discovering how well written it is. Well crafted.

“God has redeemed us to the level we deserve.”

The zombies cost Haley a star. They are an unnecessary, unimaginative shortcut. He’s good enough, he could have accomplished the same effect without resorting to such a tired trope.

“Everyman ever born thinks he knows how to save the world, but most of them sit on their hands.”

Book Review: The Oldest Trick by Auston Habershaw (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Oldest Trick (Saga of the Redeemed #1) by Auston Habershaw

Four Stars

“I always have a plan. It just so happens in this instance, it’s not a good plan and subject to change as we go along. Follow me.”

A welcome addition to the fantasy universe. Wise-cracking, know-it-all smugglers have been done, but Habershaw does Tyvian with his tongue so far into his cheek that it must hurt. Good job.

“He may run out of simplistic ethical aphorisms any moment.”

Engaging, multi-thread fantasy adventure set in a typical pseudo-medieval, magic-using universe. It’s the writing and the humor which keep the reader engaged.

“One did not channel the energy of creation without risk.”

Hard to believe this was originally published as two stories. Wouldn’t have worked as well.

“If this is the afterlife, I’m sorely disappointed.”

Extra points for ending the first of the series with a satisfying, self-contained conclusion.

“Rings don’t control people, not even magic ones. Everybody knows that.”

Movie Review: Beyond the Mask (2015) 3.5 Stars

Misty Midwest Mossiness

Beyond the Mask

Release Date: April 2015

Watched via Netflix DVD: May 2016

3.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis (from IMdb): The chief mercenary for the British East India Company, being double crossed by his former employer, has made his way to the American Colonies. Working to redeem his name, William Reynolds (Andrew Cheney) now hides behind a different mask in hopes of thwarting his former employer. As his past life closes in on him, Will must somehow gain the trust and the help of his beloved Charlotte, a woman he has been lying to, as well as a colonial intellectual by the name of Ben Franklin. All the while he races against time to defuse a plot that could have devastating effect on the birth of a new nation.

My Thoughts

The story was intriguing and I’m always a sucker for a Revolutionary tale. The actors performed well (I laughed…

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Book Review: Sword of the Ronin by Travis Heermann (Three Stars)

Book Review: Sword of the Ronin (Ronin Trilogy #2) by Travis Heermann

Three Stars

“To be truly happy, a man must forget the past and the future.”

Another fine foray in the history of medieval Japan seen through the lens of the fantastic.

“Every moment is a wonder, not something to be endured on the way to elsewhere.”

Heermann propels the reader into the culture and times of one of the greatest threats to Japanese independence and the forging of a sense of nationhood among the Japanese warrior class, who heretofore had focused themselves on maneuvering and fighting each other.

“One should not love anything in the world too much.”

Ken’ishi is western enough to be recognizable among American readers. He makes a good “everyman” reacting to but fantastic and historical elements of his story. This book’s macro-setting is the first Mongol invasion of Japan in 1274.

“Master oneself in all things.”

Few quibbles over style or details. All is presented in a way respectful to Japanese history and culture while incorporating fantastic elements which presumably the Japanese themselves would recognize.

“Life would be so much simpler without other people.”

Book Review: One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters Four Stars

Book Review: One Corpse Too Many (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #2) by Ellis Peters

Four Stars

(Third Reading: 2016)

“No one can do more than choose his own road according to his conscience, and bear the consequences of his choice.”

The more I read science fiction, the more I appreciate well-written historical fiction. The Cadfael mysteries are historical fiction at its best.

“In all my life and all my fighting I’ve fought for only one king.”

One Corpse introduces us to the historical setting and culture more than A Morbid Taste for Bones. It also introduces Hugh Berengar and other characters who will add depth and complications to Brother Cadfael’s retirement from the world and its troubles. Somehow, the troubles keep finding him. That’s half the fun.

“All the things of the wild have their proper uses, only misuse makes them evil.”

A word about religion: it is difficult to portray what people, especially monastics, felt or thought a thousand years ago. Their inner life was animated by a different world view and set of assumptions from moderns, even modern Christians. While having no apparent Christian perspective, Edith Pargeter knew Wales and medieval history. The reader benefits from her other time, almost-other-world perspective.

“God will require an accounting.”

Book Review: Up and Coming: Stores by the 2016 Campbell-Eligible Authors, S. L. Huang, editor (Zero Stars)

Book Review: Up and Coming: Stores by the 2016 Campbell-Eligible Authors, S. L. Huang, editor

No Stars

Dryness, death, despair, dystopia, defeat, ‘droids, despair.

I soldiered through over half of this dog’s breakfast of short stories, hoping it would get better. It got worse. These folks may be eligible for recognition, but most don’t deserve it. They don’t deserve to be published. (My apologies to those whose surnames fall in the latter part of the alphabet; I gave up.) I can’t believe there was any selection process involved. This is not a scatter gun collection; it’s a hand grenade.

There are a few noteworthy exceptions, like Curtis C. Chen, but most of these a mediocre, nihilistic, apocalyptic, woe-is-me tales. Too many in too close proximity.

Don’t Waste Your Time

Book Review: Choices of One by Timothy Zahn (Four Stars)

Book Review: Choices of One by Timothy Zahn

Four Stars (relative to Star Wars books)

“The Choices of One shape the futures of all.”

Zahn manages to insert a fully-developed tale into the stream of the Star Wars canon, in this case just after A New Hope, which advances the characters (some of whom are Expanded Universe, not canon) without doing serious damage to the whole.

“We all strive to build empires … we hope will survive us.”

As usual with Zahn books there’s entirely too much cooperation and fraternization between Empire and Rebel Alliance, but as usual it’s for a good cause.

“He’s never seen the Dark Lord this close … this angry.”

Manages half a dozen plot threads to keep the reader engaged. Still, pop corn for the brain. (see below)

“Information always matters.”

The joke’s on me: I didn’t realize I read this book six years ago until I checked my database. (I’ve read six hundred books since then.) Even knowing that, it was like reading a new story. One of the few advantages (?) of age.

“Sometimes it was good to be a law unto yourself.”


Book Review: Hand of Adonai by Aaron Gansky (Three Stars)

Book Review: Hand of Adonai: The Book of Things to Come by Aaron Gansky

Three Stars

“Trust us. We know what we’re doing.” “Speak for yourself.”

Think: Breakfast Club does a Christian Dungeons and Dragons via Tron. It works better than it should. One of the brightest angles is the creators wondering why they fashioned the game as they did: making living through their creation difficult.

The D&D-role-playing game created by two of the high-school-age characters is as cheesy and illogical as you’d expect. That worked for me. “Writing demonstrated control and subtlety” didn’t. The set-up is good, and the cast right. The emotions seem authentic and well-considered. Even the sudden appearance of heroic skills is adequately explained.

“Hope, that feathered pest, perched in her heart again.”

The target audience are tweens. The cast is a study in stereotypes both before and after (If I tell you what that refers to …), but Continue reading