Tag Archive | book review

Book Review: Hendrick Groen

This week you get a two-fer! Both “The Secret Diary of Hendrick Groen 83 1/4 Years Old” and “Two Old Men and a Baby, or How Hendrick and Evert Get Themselves Into a Jam”

I read Two Old Men and a Baby first, it was on one of the fabled B&N tables I love so much. At first, I wasn’t sure about it- bit then I snickered. And then a laugh. And I knew I was all in. It is a funny farce of an escapade. It does have multiple viewpoints and I will admit that about halfway through I stopped reading some of them.

The Secret Diary takes place after the Baby book, but was written first. It is in first person and told exclusively in first person. It was heart warming with a gentle humor- but I wasn’t snickering into my coffee quite as much. And that’s ok. It was still a book I’d recommend (otherwise I wouldn’t put it on here LOL).

That’s all for these two– I have lots more to catch you up on! This is the first time I’m trying to do this on my phone so forgive me any misspelling and formatting errors.

Ta, my Lovelies!

Book Review: Creatures: A Novel

Hello my lovelies! Today I thought I’d talk to you about Creatures: A Novel by Crissy Van Meter. It’s the first physical book I’ve read in a while. I’ve read on my Nook, and physical magazines… but books? For enjoyment? Not so much.

On that last trip to Barnes & Noble, I found a couple of tables with “Buy 2 Get 1 Free!” Normally, I just walk on by. I enjoy reading on my Nook. It’s convenient. I can adjust the font size. But there is nothing quite like holding a book in your hands and smelling the pages as you read.

I picked up this one in particular because of the little sea creatures on the cover, and the setting being close to the sea (an island, so. Yah). The voice captured me, drew me in and held me even through the parts I hate.

And yes, there are things in this book I normally skip right out of. Drugs—especially parents using a lot of drugs. Van Meter handles it in a variety of ways. Time flows like the ocean, back and forward. The academic questions and answers regarding whales that explore Evangeline’s relationship with her dead father, who looms just as surely as the dead whale out on the beach. The innovation in the way the story is told, including an insert of the very far future (and only one! I wanted more!), is beautifully done. It comes organically from the story– which we all know means that Van Meter put a lot of effort into it. It was worth it.

Overall, the character’s voice drew me in and kept me, even past the time where I knew the subject matter wasn’t what I normally read. I was engrossed. I was rooting for Evangeline. Creatures is the perfect example of why it’s so important to find the right voice for our stories. Because that voice will carry even the most reluctant reader through.

En Bloc: Magazine Review

Hello! Welcome back, my lovelies! It’s Magazine Monday… a day early LOL

I really enjoy literary magazines—although the price can be off putting, getting the right one can feel like you’ve found a magical unicorn. When I go to Barnes & Noble, I generally only buy my magazines there. I mostly read on my Nook. Once upon a time, the selection at any given B&N would be relatively the same. Not so this last time. I don’t know if they are selling out, or if the different stores carry different magazines. Also, sometimes the publish date seems like it was a long time ago, but with the ramifications of Covid across so many industries, I’m willing to hold my piece on this.  However, this is an interesting conundrum: I have one near my work and one closer to my home.  If they carry differing magazines, I need to figure out when the ones I like come in at each one. If they are the same and just selling out quick, well. That makes life So. Much. Easier.

I am not going to subscribe. I don’t like reading magazines on my Nook, and the US Post Office has dropped the ball. When Covid hit, I subscribed to 2 magazines. One of them I didn’t get 3 issues of. And  it’s bi-monthly! So half the issues! Yes, they sent them out to me, but really? Once things started opening up… I want to go and browse.

Today I want to talk to you about one of those browsing finds. This is from the Momcation trip to B&N. I found a little imported Literary Zine called En Bloc. It is imported from the UK, and so is one of the ones in the US that has a little bit of a hefty price tag.

The cover is eye catching and fun, a mustachioed popsicle sticking out its tongue. I am happy to say that the insides are also eye catching. The Letter from the Editor(Samuel Leach) has a large chunk of it that has a line drawn through it, and then he begins. Again. Kind of like the last bit of life has been for us.  This magazine has photography, an interview with Bill Plympton, poetry and of course the fiction that I loved. Both the for the enjoyment of reading the story, and for the techniques.

Because I write too. It’s always awesome to find writer’s excelling at telling stories in a different way. “Baby Brownie” by Ian Cowmeadow tells the story both in the past and future. It is handled really well, with the reader (me) never getting lost, and still engrossed in the story and not just geeking out over the writing. “Elanor’s Party” by Dave Gerow is one of the few stories I’ve read in Second Person perspective that really does grab you into the story and not let go.

The issue I found at B&N was the first issue. The second issue looks like it is out, based on their website (link below). I can’t wait to find it in the store.

The stories caught my eye, kept me interested. As I am a fickle, picky reader this is a great feeling! While I did read every story (I skipped most in other magazines—which will remain nameless), however there were 2 that stayed with me.

Overall verdict, not only will I buy again, it is the sort of magazine I want to share with my friends so we can talk about the stories.

En Bloc

https://enbloc.co.uk/shop/

Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels

By India Holton

For Social Media fix, I’ve been going to Redditt lately. I started when I realized that all the articles/stories I was reading on Facebook started over on the other platform. One of the things I discovered, much to my delight, is all of the different types of readers and writers over there. (I don’t know what it’s called—community? Thread?) And people who love books tend to share the love with other people.

I am finding that I love, love LOVE lighthearted  Fantasy-Romance mashups currently. It started with Gail Carringer and Rie Sheridan Rose. (Go check out their books. I’ll still be here when you come back!)

I’m here to share with you one of the books I found through Redditt: The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton.

This story is a mad-cap romp. Celia is awaiting being called up to the high tea table with the lady pirates. Ned is… a many named, mysterious figure who has been contracted to kidnap, maim, kill or harass Celia. At least one. Possibly all three. And then there’s her dreadfully evil father, who writes (badly) and wants to subjugate women.

This has a lot of hilariously mangled literary references, and the writing sometimes delivers a heart-wrenching comment just as the laughter has escaped. I will admit that I might have enjoyed it more if I had read the Bronte sisters. But, Alas, I have not. I have read enough of Austen and others that I see the nods to comedy of manners, with a side eye to the skimming of the romance.  The pacing felt a bit off for me—too rushed and then too slow, until at the very end it settled back down again.

It’s a perfect book to settle down at the beach, or curl up in the air conditioning with a nice cuppa (iced) tea.

Broadening Horizons: Book Review of Reunited, A Cybil Lewis Story By Nicole Givens Kurtz

So I picked up something to read that I never in a million years would have imagined that I would love.

Reunited-Book Cover-1

Re-United, by Nicole Givens Kurtz. I know! I read a Sci-Fi title! Can you believe it? I haven’t read Sci Fi in too long, mainly because the titles that I picked up way back in the past seemed to sacrifice both character and plot for hard science. Or, you know, they’re all “The future sucks, we’re all going to die!”

But this story had everything that I love… Great story line, kick a** heroine and accessible story telling. I was caught up, and stayed captured for the duration. It’s great read, which means Kurtz doesn’t bounce you out of the story just to tell you how something whizbangcool works.

In a lot of ways, this reminded me of the urban fantasies that I love: Kim Harrison, Anne Bishop… only, you know… more mechanical and less magical. But here’s the thing… It reminded me that I actually started out loving Science Fiction. When I was a teeny bopper all those years ago, I’d check out Heinlein, Card, Herbert… (Never any Asimov, although I don’t know why. )

Oh. And I loved, loved loved the Crystal Singer Series by McCaffrey, though I didn’t read her Pern series until recently (I know, go figure).

Re-United caught that enthusiasm for the future and made it bubble again. Since then, I have checked out  a couple of SciFi titles…

And on pay day, I’m going to have a new Cybil story on my reader.

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

 

Anyone who knows me, based on the title and cover of this book, would think that I would be stark raving bonkers over it. Madley, passionately letting my inner geek out to play with the dragons.

Eh. Not so much.

This is one of those novels that I circled around forever. Sometimes, when I finally bite it is a great read. This time, it was a pretty good story, but the voice in it kind of… hmm… how to explain it.

The voice of the character is spot on. Isabella is writing after a long career, obtaining and sharing knowledge of her beloved dragons. A pragmatic scientist in a country and time that didn’t allow easily for women to do such… well… she finds a way. Through her husband.

Using Lady Trent’s voice is both brilliant and little bit off putting. There are clues hidden here and there, among things that she says to her readers or about her editors. Things that contemporaries of hers would know, but we the reader wouldn’t. Such as the following:

(SPOILER ALERT BELOW>> SPOILER ALERT BELOW)

The careful reader will remember that she signs the preface as Isabella, Lady Trent. But her husband wasn’t anything beyond a Mr. Hmmm….. I knew what was coming before it did, but even still…. it just was… too remote.

The voice, however, also puts a wall between action and emotion. It’s a little old fashioned that way. I wasn’t as intently invested in this book as I have been in others simply because of that wall. I may be a lazy reader, but I just didn’t feel like breeching the wall and taking apart the book piece by piece.

I did end up reading it all the way through— if it had been atrocious there was no way that that would happen.

Mixed feelings on this one, peeps. Have any of you read it? What did you think? Have you read any books that you couldn’t decide if they were good or not?

Mercedes Lackey can do it…

But does that mean you can too?

Please Note: If you are a fan of the Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey and have not yet read the Last Herald Mage (Vanyel) trilogy, or Brightly Burning (Lavan?). Quit reading this. Right now. Unless you are ok with unwanted spoilers. And these are huge.

Because there’s something Mercedes Lackey can do that most of us cannot. Well, she does a lot of things mere mortal writers such as us can’t do, but this one is very specific and very, very spoilery. In that it might, literally, spoil the novels for you.

 

Are you still here?

I love Mercedes Lackey, I prefer some of the earlier books but I’m still reading her, she can still catch up my imagination and keep me firmly in the grip of the novel. But there’s something she has done in not one book, but two that has floored me. Yes. She did it. It should have made me flee from reading her books ever, ever again.

Ok. So here it is.

She killed her heroes.

I know you guys know I am a firm believer in happily ever after. So how on earth can I stay with an author who routinely does this to me? I’ll tell you why. Because it was the only possible ending to the respective stories. Vanyel and Lavan, being who they are in the books, could have done nothing else. It broke my heart, both times. Made me sob. I gave up reading for a day or two while I processed my grief. Yes, I felt grief.

But I got over it.

Because those two heroes and their respective journeys were breathtaking.

I’ve written a novella here the heroine dies at the end. So does the hero. It needs a lot of work, but I’m still not sure that I’ll take it up and try to strengthen it and make it better or not. The ending makes sense for the story, the heroine already knows how it will end. But readers… we can be a finicky bunch. 

Here’s the thing. I’m *not* Mercedes Lackey. I only wish I could grow up to be like her. But you know what, being me isn’t so bad. Maybe I’ll go back one day and edit that story, tighten it up and make it shiney and new. Maybe it will languish in my Word Documents. No matter what, that story is precious to me, as are Mercedes Lackey’s stories. They taught me that the hard endings can be written, can be written beautifully… And i have the courage to try it.

Oh. And one other thing she can do… She completely took me by surprise with Moving Targets (with Larry Dixon). I didn’t catch on until just about the last minute, and i normally can suss these things out. All I can say is make sure to pack extra snacks. He. he. he.

 

BWAH HA HA

Till next time my Lovelies!

 

 

Book Review: Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl by David Barnett

Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl

I’ve seen this book a lot– the Nook app was forever recommending it, but I resisted. I had tried steam punk written by men before, and it just didn’t have the same soul that I loved in the female version of the genre. This one didn’t have the same soul, either… But that’s ok. Cuz I liked it.

Yes. You heard me right. I tried something new and I liked it.

At first I was like… What the Heck? Because by today’s standards, Gideon Smith is naive. So, so naive. But that what makes it great. It’s immersing yourself in what I imagine penny dreadfulls were. Just a great, rip roaring adventure. Gideon’s naivete is the perfect foil for his more damaged comrades. It’s a tight balance that has to be maintained by the author, and he does it well. I’m not sure how the followup novel will work, because some of that naivete will be lost, but I’m looking forward to finding out how it’s handled. 

I’ll be back later in the week with some thoughts on Mercedes Lackey.

Ta for now, lovelies!

 

 

Changing Tastes

Well Hello there, lovelies. How are you doing today? I’m doing pretty darn well. Hopefully, by the time the night is over, I will have all of my work back on my computer.. this one. Yay!

I bought Dorthea Breton Frank’s newest story, The Last Original Wife, and I have to say… I was disappointed. I don’t know if her writing changed, or if my tastes changed, but the last two books by her I did not like at all. It got me to thinking… I know our writing changes and grows. We might go dark and creepy for one, and be light hearted for the rest. But could my tastes have changed so completely that I just can’t stand the books any more? I’m not talking childhood to adult, but rather a span of time maybe… 3 or 4 years?

What got me about this is all the talking about the plot. There wasn’t much internal going on, and when it did…. it just didn’t ring right. Lots of talking things through with other characters was available. And since there was no action or tags with it, it kind of went talking heads. I just couldn’t connect.

Which I hate! I love the setting of the books, and they used to have so much more depth. I think. I am going to have to go back and see… Because it is possible that at that time in my life I was projecting more into my reading than was really there. I hate it when that happens. Of course, that’s also when I discovered Anne Bishop, and her’s still grip me and pull me under.

I am sad to say that while I love beach reads set in South Carolina (never been there except in my imagination…  but I want to!), the low country to be specific…. I think I will take a pass on this author for a while.

And go back and look at those other books. Because I really can’t see myself loving her books so much if they were like this. I might have been living in a fuge at the time, but I’ve always been very picky about my reading.

Anyone got any South Carolina beach reads to recommend? Since I need a new author for it ?

Eloisa James and Frozen

So last Monday was my birthday. The family got what I wanted, the movie Frozen. And I fell in love with it. There’s a scene, during the coronation ball, when I thought to myself “This is just like an Eloisa James novel.” I might have even said it out loud, but my son being only seven didn’t get the reference.

While Three Weeks with Lady X doesn’t have any magic in it, I defy you to tell me that it isn’t magical. Because that’s what falling in love *is*. Or at least I hope so… I haven’t given up on it yet.

While there is a certain lightness to her novels, and some froth and fun… There’s always the underlying emotion. Strong, identifiable emotion. With India (also known as Lady X), it is the feeling of never being good enough. Even though she is gorgeous, talented… everything we as women would want to be, she has that deep seated insecurity.

And Thorn, oh Thorn. He kind of has the same problem. The way he misreads what she’s saying, and vice a versa, makes for a lively ride.

Bonus: There’s a reference to literature! Almost always there’s a nod to it… can you find it on your own in this one?

I may work in mainly the fantasy genre, but I hope that I can attain this kind of heart felt plot that just explodes. Like a Disney song. All over the reader’s heart. I loved Frozen, and I loved the new book (it came out on Tuesday, I devoured it in one day… may have to re-read….hmmm).

Anyways, my dahlinks, next up is Lynn Flewlling’s latest. It’s already written, so I’ll get it up during the week. I’m reading a new series that is just making language explode, so I’ll try to get that up before the end of the week, too.

 

Ta for now!