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- 5 Stars
- 4 Stars
- Witch-Hunter Series by K.S. Marsden
- Zombie Turkeys by Andy Zach
- An Atlas of Tolkien by David Day
- The Guardian: Blood in the Snow (Volume 2) by M.J. Kobernus
- Dark Gods of Alter Telluria by Barton Paul Levenson
- The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
- Shadow Stalker Part I by Renee Scattergood
- Born to Magic by David Wind
- XOE: Vampires, and Werewolves, and Demons, Oh My! by Sara C. Roethle
- Strange Hunting by Dave Robertson
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two (Special Rehearsal Edition): The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany
- Medium Dead: An Alexandra Gladstone Mystery by Paula Paul
- The Gifting by K.E. Ganshert
- 3 Stars
- 2 Stars
- 1 Star
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Dragonfly by Frederic S. Durbin
Excellent Halloween Read
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Fred at a local library and traded books with him. I have just finished reading his book, Dragonfly, and it turned out to be an excellent book to read in the weeks leading up to Halloween. It tells the adventures of Dragonfly, a young girl who discovers a phantasmagorical underground realm beneath the basement of her Uncle’s funeral home. Sam Hain (as in Samhain, the Celtic Halloween), its evil leader, sends monsters up to steal children and poison the dreams of humanity. It is one of the most original tales I have read in ages, and it stands out from the other fantasy books I have read during the past decade in terms of the author’s descriptions of this subterranean world. While the author’s vision is highly creative and fascinating, it is his descriptions that stand out. He is as much an artist as he is an author; he paints with words, and I find myself somewhat grateful that I read the book in paperback rather than on my usual tablet because I would otherwise have found myself constantly highlighting beautifully crafted phrases, sentences, and paragraphs for future contemplation and enjoyment rather than simply enjoying being immersed in such a wonderful world. Although the heroine of the book is an adolescent girl, readers of all ages should find this a wonderfully fantastic, if frighteningly evil, world in which to while away one’s autumn evenings. This book is a rare Halloween treat best savored wrapped in a warm blanket when the moon is full, the naked branches of trees tap upon the windows, and the crackle of the fire competes with the creaks of aging joists and settling staircases. Grab a mug of hot chocolate, settle back in your chair, and enjoy your trip to the dark world of Harvest Moon.
October 23, 2016
Lucifer’s Odessey by Rex Jameson
Not your Typical Epic Paranormal Science Fiction
Lucifer’s Odessey by Rex Jameson (book 1 in the Primal Patterns series) is definitely not your typical epic paranormal fantasy science fiction novel. It is also not likely to be appreciated by fundamentalist Christian Evangelicals lacking an open mind when it comes to such biblical characters as Lucifer, Jehovah, and Michael. Covering three parallel universes and hundreds of millions of years, this book combines supernatural creatures (demons, angels, and goblins/elves), a mixture of magic and advanced science, political intrigue, war, and cosmology to create an epic, action/adventure romp that will make you think while keeping you turning the pages. It’s not every day you read a novel written from the demon Lucifer’s point of view. I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written book and look forward to reading book two. So if you are interested in reading something more than the typical science fiction space opera, then you could do far worse than this first book in the primal patterns series.
October 15, 2016
Demon Bound by Debra Dunbar
Interesting Twist on the Angel/Demon Dynamic
This is an interesting twist on the Angel/Demon dynamic. I really liked the idea of having a demon as the lead character and heroine. And the author did a great job of putting the reader into the head of the demon. And having the an uptight angel (who ordinarily would kill demons on sight) develop feelings for the demon was an interesting twist. (By the way, that definitely does not make this a romance novel). I look forward to reading many more books in this series.
October 15, 2016
Strange Hunting II by Dave Robertson
A Great Book for the Armchair Explorer and Monster Lover
Taking up where Strange Hunting leaves off, Strange Hunting II is the continuing autobiography of world traveler and monster hunter Berk Willis, taking him from his twenties to his forties. While this book covers fewer hunts than the first book, it covers them in considerably more detail and does a better job than the first book of drawing the reader into each story. As the main character has matured, he’s grown and become wiser and become less likely to take stupid risks that sometime stretched credulity in the first book. The book’s many realistic details has made the paranormal fantasy more believable. The quality of the author’s writing has also improved over the first book. In general, this was a very interesting, exciting, and unique book, and if you liked the first one, you’ll definitely like this second one even better. Given that our hero is no longer as young as he once was and has settled down with wife and child, I’m not sure that there will be a Strange Hunting III, but if there is, you can be sure that I will be reading it.
August 30, 2016
Ivy’s Blossom (Legend of the White Sword Book 3) by P.D. Kalnay
Each Book is Better than the Previous One
Jack finally learns who is grandmother is and travels to Knight’s Haven, an island on Ivy’s world, where he joins her in her banishment. This is a very enjoyable little read. I bought this book just as soon as I finished the previous one and was not disappointed. Now, I look forward to reading the next book in the series.
August 2, 2016
Ivy’s Tangle (Legend of the White Sword Book 1) by P.D. Kalnay
Prompted Me to Immediately Buy the Second Book
This was an excellent book. I liked the characters, the dialog, the plot, and the setting. I would really have liked to have read this as a child and imagined I was the book’s main character. Even as an adult, I found it very enjoyable. I read is over the course of a couple of days, and immediately bought and started reading the second book in the series.
July 12, 2016
Blood in the Sand (The Guardian) (Volume 1) by M.J. Kobernus
Excellent Debut Book – Can Hardly Wait for Book 2
A historian researching the life of a semi-famous adventurer and thereby earn an assistant professorship enters an amazing world of djinn, witches, and the living memories of the man he studies. It is imaginative story-telling that leaves you wanting more. Koburnus does a great job weaving believable characters and plot twists into an exciting tale that will keep you hooked until the very end. He also masterfully writes one scene of such strong emotions that it will tug at your heart long after you’ve turned the final page. I for one am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, though this first book is so well-encapsulated that I have no idea where he will be going with the next one.
February 26, 2016
Witch-Hunter (Series) by KS Marsden
A Great Paranormal/Apocalypse Series for Lovers of Tales of Star-Crossed Lovers
The Witch-Hunter trilogy is a great example of a tale of star-crossed lovers, and like all such tales, this is not a story that ends with “And they lived happily ever-after.” George “Hunter” Astley is a seventh-generation witch-hunter, who has been raised to believe that all witches are inherently evil, while Sophie is the exceptionally powerful Shadow Witch, who has been brought up with the responsibility of freeing witch-kind from their millennia of oppression by the witch hunters and to take revenge for her grandmother’s murder at the hands of Hunter’s grandfather. In spite of having apparently every reason to hate each other, the two briefly fall in love but part ways before Sophie gives birth to Hunter’s son. Like many divorcing couples, they both feel that they are in the right and justified in keeping their child from the other parent. Too much is at stake in a world at war, and neither is able to give up core beliefs for the sake of their child.
Although neither Hunter nor Sophie is quite human, the authors have written the chief protagonists of these books with very human emotions and weaknesses, making them believable characters that you hope will somehow overcome the forces that seek to tear them apart. Without ever becoming preachy or overtly moralistic, the books provide several stark examples of the dangers of prejudice and the evil that can result when people view others in terms of their differences rather than their similarities.
Peopled with witches, witch-hunters, wiccans, normal humans, and a most unusual demon, the world the authors have created is both interesting and believable. My only real gripe (and the primary reason that I couldn’t quite force myself to give the series a full 5 star review) is that the military ended up fighting with nothing more than rifles and pistols, when the witches used magic to eliminate all technology involving electronics. Surely, the Army would have also fought back with mortars, mines, and hand grenades.
This weakness aside, if you are into books mixing the paranormal and apocalyptic with lots of interesting characters, many of whom having a “Game of Thrones” lifespan, then you need look no further than this series. Try book one and you will likely find yourself doing what I did, buying each subsequent book as soon as I finished the previous one.
March 27, 2017
Zombie Turkeys by Andy Zach
A Fun Little Zombie Parody
Zombie Turkeys: How an Unknown Blogger Fought Unkillable Turkeys (Life After Life) (Volume 1) is definitely not your typical zombie book. Instead, it is a parody of the standard zombie book, and as such may even be destined for cult status. The book doesn’t take itself seriously and neither should you. Its relatively choppy and repetitive writing style would not work well with a serious horror novel, but somehow fits when used in this humorous take on the zombie apocalypse. In general, I enjoyed reading this book, but I was left feeling that it could have been funnier and that the plot dragged in a couple areas in the last third of the book. Although the twist at the end was relatively obvious, it nevertheless seemed suited to the book, like watching a train barreling towards a car stuck on the tracks and when the crash finally came, it left a satisfied smile. So if you want a change of pace from your usual brain-eating zombie feast and a little light reading, you just might want to gobble up this little book.
February 6, 2017
An Atlas of Tolkien by David Day
A Roadmap to Middle Earth
The geography and cosmology of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth is complex and exists as much in time as it does in space. This is especially true when one goes beyond the lands and time of the Tolkien Trilogy and The Hobbit. This vast scope is one of the things that makes reading all of the less popular works of Tolkien, well, less popular.
Although a work of quasi-fiction, it does not have most of the characteristics by which works of fiction are judged. There is essentially no character development and dialog, and the plot is merely a 500,000-foot overview of the plots of Tolkien’s original works. This book is certainly not something that anyone would want to read independently of reading Tolkien’s books or at least watching the movies.
The book’s best feature is its wonderful cover, which is a green suede “leather” tooled to show a dragon. It was a pleasure to hold in my hands. My biggest two complaints are: (1) There were no “accurate” maps, so the title is quite misleading, and (2) the numerous paintings were in a style that I personally dislike (who knows, you may well like them).
In summation, The Atlas of Tolkien succeeds at its stated goal: to put the works of Tolkien into an understandable context in a clear and concise way. I wish I had read it prior to reading the Silmarillion and other similar works. In spite of its weaknesses, it was a very nice Christmas present and managed to earn 4 stars.
December 27, 2016
Blood in the Snow (The Guardian) (Volume 2) by M.J. Kobernus
Book 2 Does NOT Disappoint
I received a draft manuscript quite a few months ago, and I have been trying to patiently wait until the book is officially out so that I can finally post my review. Bottom line up front: I think it is an excellent follow-on to the first book. The viking subplot was very interesting and the book rose to a exciting climax nicely resolved. In general, the plot, descriptions, dialog, and editing are all good. I also like the characters with only one minor complaint that kept the book from receiving 5 stars. I found Detective Hanlon’s dogged pursuit in spite of Entwhistle’s air tight alibi somewhat annoying by the end of the book. That said, I very much enjoyed book 2 and am looking forward to book 3.
December 24, 2016
Dark Gods of Alter Telluria by Barton Paul Levenson
A Christian Paranormal Fantasy Science Fiction Novel
A nominally Christian astrophysicist living in London gets dumped by his girl friend, goes for a long walk to get his head together, gets caught in a terrible thunderstorm, is struck by lightning, and wakes up to find himself trapped in a parallel universe in which the quasi-Victorian world is ruled by autocratic vampires, wizards, and witches.
I truly enjoyed this book and found it hard to put down. In fact, I basically completed it in a single day of binge reading. The author created an interesting world with its own cultural norms, and it was interesting to see how the modern scientist reacted to the magic, the local religion, and to the barbaric customs of the vampire court. The book was well written and easy to read, with a well paced plot and 3-dimensional characters.
The only thing that kept the book from receiving a 5 star review was its overt Christian aspects. While I did not particularly mind them during the first three-fourths of the book, the last couple of chapters and especially the ending seemed overly preachy, making me feel as though I had wandered into to an elaborate parable or Sunday sermon. [Note: Although I was raised as a born-again evangelical Christian, I became a secular humanist while in college, which probably explains my apostate’s dislike for overt religious writing. On the other hand, if you are into Christian fiction, then you may well find this book a great read.]
November 15, 2016
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
A Most Unusual Pair
The Golem and the Jinni is one of the most original books I have read this year. As the title implies, this is the story of a golem, a woman of clay who was made to be the wife of a man who dies the day she awakens, and a jinni, a male being of fire, who both find themselves alone in the Jewish and Syrian ghettos of New York.
One of the things I especially liked about this book is the meticulous effort the author has taken to capture in detail the cultures and atmosphere of the late nineteenth century setting. One truly feels transported back in time to a setting that is both familiar and yet unfamiliar. Seeing the city through the alien eyes of the jinni and golem is a treat. The characters were well developed, and the dialog rings true. The book is well-editied and I was never driven out of the story by grammar errors or typos. The only complaint I have that kept me from giving the book a five star rating is that the plot occasionally seemed a tad slow in places. However, if you don’t require constant action, you will find the relaxed pace providing sufficient time for enjoying the rich tapestry the author has woven in this unique study in the coming together of diverse personalities and cultures.
November 8, 2016
Shadow Stalker Part I by Renee Scattergood
Not your Typical Paranormal Fantasy
The debut novel by Australian Renee Scattergood, Shadow Stalker Part I (Episodes 1-6) is also the first book in the Shadow Stalker young adult paranormal fantasy series. It tells the story of teenager Auren, who is raised by her somewhat mysterious uncle Kado and who discovers that she is not only a shadow stalker (people with uncommon paranormal abilities) but also marked for death by an evil foreign emperor.
While the book shares several characteristics with similar tales of children who learn that they have unknown special abilities, what makes this series special are (1) the author has created an interesting world with its own geography and cultures and (2) the concept of shadow stalkers is both interesting and innovative (no spoilers so I won’t tell you how). This book is thus much more than your typical high school heroine with her standard group of friends. The main characters are interesting and well-developed, the pacing keeps the action going, and the prose descriptions bring the setting vividly to life. I also very much liked the idea of the self-fulfilling prophesy and the risk it poses to the characters and their world. Now that I have finished the first book, I definitely look forward to reading the second book and will be following this author as the series progresses. Recommended.
Born to Magic by David Wind
Original Combination of Fantasy and Science Fiction
3,000 years in the future after a major catastrophe, civilization has reverted to a medieval society where technology has largely been replaced by magic. I like the fact that magic is strictly the domain of women, which makes for great tension and conflict when the son of the high king is born with magic abilities. The characters are well developed. I plot progresses steadily with lots of excitement. I am definitely going to read the next book in the series.
August 31, 2016
XOE: Vampires, and Werewolves, and Demons, Oh My! by Sara C. Roethle
Enjoyable Lite Reading if Not Terribly Original
Xoe was a fun read that should appeal to your average teenage girl. Don’t expect a lot of originality; Xoe is a typical teen paranormal vampire and werewolf book in which the protagonist learns she has paranormal powers, the world is full of paranormal creatures such as vampires, werewolves, and demons, and there is the usual G-rated romantic interests. A well-developed character with a fun personality and entertaining dialog, Xoe is certainly a more interesting and powerful character than Bella Swan in Twilight. The plot was exciting, with plenty of action and scary scenes to keep the reader turning the page. While several parts of the book were clearly unrealistic, especially the behavior of the adults such as Xoe’s mother when Xoe was injured, I found that I could easily overlook the book’s weaknesses as long as I accepted it for what it is: a few hours of enjoyable lite entertainment and nothing more.
August 31, 2016
Strange Hunting by Dave Robertson
Memoirs of a Monster Hunter
Strange Hunting is written in the form of an autobiography of a young man who becomes a monster hunter. One thing I really enjoyed about this book was that each chapter involved the hunting of a different kind of monster in a different part of the world, which enabled the author to provide interesting background information on lesser-known monsters and a backdrop of fascinating exotic locations (one of the reasons people enjoy James Bond and Mission Impossible movies). This made the book an exciting page-turner with each chapter bringing something new and interesting.
My only small complaint is that I would have preferred a somewhat more sophisticated writing style; for me, too many of the sentences (especially in the initial chapters) were short, simple declarative statements that seemed intended for a younger audience in spite of the fact that content seemed intended for a both young adult and adult readership.
The bottom line is that Strange Hunting is an enjoyable, interesting read for anyone who like monsters, both traditional and exotic. I definitely look forward to reading Strange Hunting II.
August 26, 2016
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two (Special Rehearsal Edition): The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany
Better than Feared, Worse than It Needed to Be
I wasn’t sure if the format of a screenplay was going to be a problem. I missed JK Rowling’s prose. The format made me use my imagination more, but I quickly got used to it. My main problems were the dialogue and characterization of certain characters, especially Ron. I hope JK Rowling rewrites it someday as a regular book.
August 2, 2016
Medium Dead: An Alexandra Gladstone Mystery by Paula Paul
A village doctor during the reign of Queen Victoria, Alexandra Gladstone takes a scientific approach when faced with apparently paranormal activities and the mysterious murder of a spiritualist where circumstantial evidence implicates the queen. I definitely enjoyed the characters and the setting. Now I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series.
April 13, 2016
The Gifting: The Gifting Series Volume 1 by K.E. Ganshert
The Book was Excellent; the Audio Version Better than Average, but Not as Good.
This is a hard review to write because I am primarily reviewing the audio book version. Let’s start out with the fact that I read the book first and very much enjoyed it. I would give the book itself five stars. On the other hand, I would give the audio version four stars. While the voice artist did a good job (certainly better than average), I have also listened to quite a few books where the voice artist did a better job of differentiating the different characters as well as differentiating female and male characters. For this reason, I could not bring myself to rate the audio portion 5 stars. Thus, I guess my overall review would be 4.5 stars, but Amazon did not give me the option to review provide an “average” of the two. Bottom line, I enjoyed reading the book better than listening to it. That said, the big difference may also be that I read the book first. I’m not 100% sure whether I would have rated it higher if the content had been new to me when I listened to it.
March 22, 2016
Elizabeth’s Legacy (Royal Institute of Magic, Book 1) by Victor Kloss
Basic Fantasy Book for Middle School Children
This is a middle of the road fantasy book for middle schoolers who enjoyed the first couple of Harry Potter books and movies. This was an okay read, though it really is intended for middle school children. There were a few interesting ideas such as spell shooters. I had no problem finishing the book but doubt that I’ll read the next one.
January 24, 2016
Unspeakable Acts (McQueen Investigation Series Book 1) by Janet Leigh Green
Paranormal Horror Romance for Adults
First of all, I want to make it clear that this paranormal horror romance novel should be rated X/NR-17 (at least), not so much for the graphic sex, but rather for the sick psychopathic behavior including rape, torture, and murder. I definitely do not recommend this book for teenagers or anyone offended by such subject matter.
The book tells the story of a young woman who lives in a very old house haunted by four ghosts, three of whom are as sickeningly evil in death as they were in life. After being repeatedly raped by one of the ghosts while sleeping, she seeks the help of a three paranormal detectives, who eventually succeed in freeing her and the house from its evil inhabitants.
The basic premise and plot are interesting, and I very much liked the backstory. In the hands of a more talented writer, this book could have been an excellent chilling tale of horror for the more mature audience. Unfortunately, the author was not up to the challenge. There was far too much telling and not enough showing. There was a lot of unnecessary repetition, and the action dragged in spots. But the worst aspect of the book (and the reason I gave it 2 stars rather than 3) was simply the writing. Too often, the author employed simple declarative sentences at a reading level more appropriate for a younger audience than the subject matter demanded. In addition to a more sophisticated writing style, the book could greatly benefit from a good copy editing; grammar errors (especially missing commas) are numerous and the number of typos often jarred me out of the story.
Bottom Line: While the book holds a lot of promise (if for a somewhat niche market) and is worthy of a rewrite, I reluctantly recommend passing on this edition and waiting for the next.
October 27, 2016
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