**spoiler alert** (view spoiler)[It's true that Charles de Lint has depicted an afterlife more than once. Yet what I particularly liked about this boo**spoiler alert** (view spoiler)[It's true that Charles de Lint has depicted an afterlife more than once. Yet what I particularly liked about this book is that happiness isn't the highest aspiration for Jilly. "Making a difference" takes precedence. I feel the same way. (hide spoiler)]...more
If you enjoy the television series Once Upon A Time, Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D. Hammons will have a very similar vibe. Characters from Wo If you enjoy the television series Once Upon A Time, Alice Takes Back Wonderland by David D. Hammons will have a very similar vibe. Characters from Wonderland, Neverland and the realm known in this book as Grimm are all mashed together quite delightfully. I received a free copy in advance of publication from Curiosity Quills, the publisher, in return for this review.
Literary mashups are usually considered as the equivalent of stunt-casting for fans of the characters involved who want to know what would happen if they met. It's akin to fanfic, and is based on the same playful impulse. This novel is for those fans, but is also much more.
This is a novel whose purpose is the defense of the imagination against its enemies through the utilization of some of the most beloved fairy tales. If I had thought of this idea first, I would have written an essay. So kudos to David D. Hammons for giving us such a delicious and compelling novel dealing with this theme.
The re-telling of Rapunzel is a narrative frame that is fully woven in the opening of the novel. This is really a book about an Air mage who uses herThe re-telling of Rapunzel is a narrative frame that is fully woven in the opening of the novel. This is really a book about an Air mage who uses her gifts to earn a living as a sharpshooter. She eventually joins a Wild West show that is touring Germany. There are two perspectives to take on this character. One is that Giselle is an unethical fraud who is only pretending to be the equal of the real historical sharpshooter Annie Oakley. ( Annie Oakley is mentioned in From a High Tower. She was also touring Germany in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show.) The second is that Giselle is a feminist hero. She is a resourceful survivor who has found a really cool way to utilize her magical abilities. Do the ends justify the means? I will allow readers to make their own decisions about Giselle.
What interested me most about this novel is that Lackey portrays German perceptions of the American Wild West as being drastically different from American perceptions. Why should this culture clash matter to 21st century readers? The most important issue was the portrayal of Native Americans.
From a thematic perspective, I consider this a provocative novel about popular culture and national stereotypes.
I nominated this book on Kindle Scout which entitled me to a free copy when it was selected by Amazon for publication.
The Lost Tribe's remarkable concI nominated this book on Kindle Scout which entitled me to a free copy when it was selected by Amazon for publication.
The Lost Tribe's remarkable concept was well-implemented. Although I knew that the zamlers were the author's invention, they felt like authentic Jewish folklore. The baseball series in Nazi Germany never happened, but after I read the book I was convinced that it ought to have happened. The plot was suspenseful and the characters were movingly portrayed. This is definitely the best indie book I've read in 2015 so far.
This novel is beautifully told in the style of a fairy tale, but there is only one story recognizable as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast toward thThis novel is beautifully told in the style of a fairy tale, but there is only one story recognizable as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast toward the end of the novel. The protagonist is on a quest. The people he encounters tell him their stories. All the stories in this book are tragic but haunting. ...more
I wanted to love this book and the mythical stature given to the relationship between the two playwrights, but then there is this emphasis on the greaI wanted to love this book and the mythical stature given to the relationship between the two playwrights, but then there is this emphasis on the great love between Shakespeare and Ann Hathaway, she who was only bequeathed his second best bed. No other author who's written Shakespeare into fiction (that I've encountered) has imagined that theirs was a love match. I've always thought it was a shotgun wedding and an obligation. This idea that Will Shakespeare was in love with his wife makes no sense to me either historically or in the context of this novel. I felt that the book was undermined by this premise even though there was so much that was wonderful about it. ...more
This is not a book about Voltaire and I would not describe the alternate France depicted in this book as in the midst of an Enlightenment. It's full oThis is not a book about Voltaire and I would not describe the alternate France depicted in this book as in the midst of an Enlightenment. It's full of magic, or at least belief in magic. I would describe it as what is called "magical realist" fiction rather than steampunk although there are mechanical gadgets.
I was more interested in the cluster of beliefs surrounding any man who has been hanged. The Hanged Man is a Tarot card. It could be seen as a reference to the mythic Dying God who is identified with the harvest in ancient Pagan religions. He is cut down and is resurrected every year like the crops. So all these powers associated with someone who has been hanged and the relics of the hanged, must be a Pagan survival.
The protagonist and other calligraphers appear to fear that printing will obliterate ancient wisdom, but the ordinary people surrounding them preserve it in their way of thinking.
This book is full of irony and charming bon mots. I very much enjoyed reading it. ...more
The following is a shorter version of my complete review of this book which appeared on Shomeret: Masked Reviewer. See my complete review at http://sh The following is a shorter version of my complete review of this book which appeared on Shomeret: Masked Reviewer. See my complete review at http://shomeretmasked.blogspot.com/20...
When I reviewed Seasons of the Fool by Lynne Cantwell on Amazon and Goodreads, she asked me if I wanted an autographed print copy. Since my space for print format books is extremely limited, I declined. Instead I accepted a free digital copy of The Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus for review.
The central character of this series is lawyer Naomi Witherspoon whose practice focuses on mediation. Naomi is a very likeable lawyer. She loves to help people and wants all parties in a case to benefit. Mediation is more compatible with Naomi's ethos than litigation where there are always winners and losers.
As the series opens with Seized, Naomi is a mediator for a corporate law firm in Denver. Her life changes drastically after she attends a sweat lodge run by Ute medicine man Looks Far Guzman. Looks Far is a remarkably eccentric character who I found delightful, and he has an enduring connection with Naomi.
Unfortunately, there was an element in the sweat lodge ceremony which was portrayed inaccurately. I did suspect that Cantwell might have thought that her readers would be uncomfortable with a more authentic description. Yet later in Annealed Book #5, she didn't flinch from portraying a traditional Lakota Sun Dance which would probably make New Age readers uneasy. So I'm not entirely certain why she sanitized a practice of the Native American Church in Seized.
My favorite book in this series was Gravid which is Book #4. Cantwell is at her best when she is dealing with family, friendships and the spiritual commitments of mortals. I also liked the way Cantwell deals with both inner conflicts and interpersonal conflicts. She understands human beings far better than Gods. The character dynamics in Gravid were wonderful. I loved the introduction of the journalist, Antonia, who is associated with the Greco-Roman pantheon. Antonia is a strong woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. This is also the only book in this series where I thought that all the spiritual/mythical content was well-handled.
After the text of all the novels in The Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus concludes, Cantwell reveals that there will be a new trilogy that is a continuation of this one called Land,Sea,Sky and provides an excerpt of the first one. It is my hope that she will continue to deal with the problems of complex human characters, their relationships, their spirituality and their paranormal gifts. If she does bring the Gods and mythology into her work, I hope that she consults multiple sources about them. Having a more complete picture will improve her portrayals of divine beings and mythological figures.
Like another review that I recently saw on Goodreads, I originally thought that Victoria Strauss was re-creating Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism in a fantaLike another review that I recently saw on Goodreads, I originally thought that Victoria Strauss was re-creating Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism in a fantasy context. There were indeed some parallels, but there were also some key differences. The first one I noticed is that Strauss' fictional religion, Aratism, is messianic. It's a central tenet of Buddhism that anyone can become a Buddha. There are Bodhisattvas who strive to awaken others to their Buddha nature, but each Buddhist is actually still the one engaged in his or her own salvation. So there are no messiahs in Buddhism. Another seriously critical difference between Tibetan Buddhism and Aratism is that Tibetan Buddhist monks practice non-violence. The Brethren of Arata don't adhere to such a code. In fact, violence among Aratists is central to the plot. The sort of violence that occurs is reminiscent of historical conflicts between Christian sects. I came to the conclusion that Victoria Strauss has constructed a syncretic religion composed of elements from Buddhism and Christianity. It's East meets West in a fantasy world.
The male and female protagonists are both complex. Gyalo, the male protagonist, evolves in an unexpected direction while still maintaining the essence of his character. I don't agree with the Goodreads reviewer who seemed to think that Axane, the female protagonist, had been "ruined" by traumatic events. For me, the strength of a female character is demonstrated by how she reacts to trauma. Axane is severely impacted by trauma, but she's a survivor. She is eventually able to move on with her life. I appreciate that sort of portrayal of a female character.
The fantasy aspect involves paranormal powers. Strauss confronts the issue of ethical responsibility in the use of paranormal powers through the differing approaches of Aratist sects.
The Burning Land is a thoughtful book that I recommend to readers who are interested in compelling fantasy that addresses religion and ethical responsibility.
I confess to being surprised that this was published by Tor rather than Harlequin because this book had so much romance content. It was also odd thatI confess to being surprised that this was published by Tor rather than Harlequin because this book had so much romance content. It was also odd that although romantic relationships were developed, Delia herself had relatively little background. We are told that she was a teacher in New York. What did she teach? I felt that I wanted to know her better. What aspirations did Delia have for herself other than wishing that a ghost wasn't following her around?
Given this rather thin characterization for Delia, I'm not surprised that some reviewers think that the medium Dora would make a more interesting protagonist. I confess that I agree with them. Delia doesn't carry the weight of being a protagonist very well. It isn't really her story. It's the story of others in her life.
There isn't much of a mystery. It became clear to me who the perpetrator was from the first time he was mentioned. He was the only possible suspect given what I knew about the case. Of course, I was right. The rest of the storyline was very predictable.
I would rate this 2.5 stars if I could. I did like Dora. ...more
It's is hard for me to articulate why I find this book so moving. I think that it speaks to our moment in history as much as it describes the fear andIt's is hard for me to articulate why I find this book so moving. I think that it speaks to our moment in history as much as it describes the fear and intolerance in the U.S. of 1918. ...more
The only story I was impressed with was the one by Kelly Eskridge. It was conceptually original and beautifully written. Other stories didn't interestThe only story I was impressed with was the one by Kelly Eskridge. It was conceptually original and beautifully written. Other stories didn't interest me, seemed superficial or had problems with their implementation. So the average was C for me....more
The title and the word labyrinth in the description were what drew me to this novel on Kindle Scout where I nominated it. Although Seasons of the FoolThe title and the word labyrinth in the description were what drew me to this novel on Kindle Scout where I nominated it. Although Seasons of the Fool wasn’t selected for publication through the Kindle Scout program, I was still interested in reviewing it and accepted a gift copy from the author after the nomination process was over.
The title seemed to be a reference to the Tarot which contains a card called the Fool. Entire books have been written about the meaning of The Fool in a mystical context, and what The Fool’s Journey involves. So I expected Tarot references and magic. There was some of that, but not as much as I hoped.
This book is actually a contemporary romance with several dollops of mysticism, and maybe a quarter of a teaspoon of magic. This is a good recipe for readers who are skittish about paranormal elements. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.
There are a couple of Wiccan characters in this book who mostly stay in the background. I was pleased by the bit of description of Wiccan ritual that introduces their practices to the reader, but when a spell of theirs appears to have had major impact on the life of the protagonist I wanted to know more about it. What sort of spell had it been, and what had been their magical intention? The exact nature of this magic was never completely clarified. If a book is going to contain magic, I want it to be fully developed. I think that a full teaspoon of magic would have added richness to the mixture.
I really liked Julia, the heroine. She is strong without being arrogant, and principled without being self-righteous. She examines her actions, and thinks about their consequences. Most importantly, she has an open mind. She accepts her Wiccan neighbors without prejudice. I did have one problem with her portrayal. At one point, she seems to bounce back too soon from what most people would consider a traumatic incident.
I liked the fact that the hero, Dave, is a beta male rather than an alpha male. He is sensitive and considerate. He doesn't try to dominate over Julia as other men in her life had done. He respects her right to make her own choices. He tries to do what's right. He is a caring and responsible father to his two children.
I also liked the romance aspect as a whole. Julia makes errors of judgment in her romantic relationships, but she moves on. She’s a survivor. I wish I saw that kind of maturity more often in romance fiction.
I would call Moonlight Water quirky. I stand by the genre classification of contemporary fiction even though there's a small element of what is oftenI would call Moonlight Water quirky. I stand by the genre classification of contemporary fiction even though there's a small element of what is often called magical realism. I will leave readers to discover it themselves.
What I enjoyed most in this book is the role of music. It's transcendent, and it can redeem people who may appear to be lost beyond redemption. This is one of my very favorite tropes in fiction. I felt that the musician characters were portrayed authentically.
Unfortunately, the authors seemed to want an unambivalent happily ever after resolution. Perhaps if Moonlight Water had been a romance I would have expected the overindulgence in HEA. Although there are romantic relationships between characters, this book is no romance.
I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in return for this honest review.
When I've read the first book, I usually evaluate a sequel o I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in return for this honest review.
When I've read the first book, I usually evaluate a sequel on whether it develops the author's premise further. This is an aspect of A Grave Inheritance that I would judge successful. When Selah Kilbrid travels from Pennsylvania to London, she encounters other goddess born with different gifts, and even a different goddess. There are also new abilities and possibilities available to her as a child of Brigid that she had never imagined. For Selah, the Old World opens a new world of experiences.
I admit that I hadn't expected originality because the aristocracy of Georgian England is a well-trod territory for historical romance. I am not really interested in the lives of aristocrats in any period. I preferred the first book because the Pennsylvania Quaker environment was so unexpected for a novel in this category.
Another problem is that the storyline in this second novel wasn't resolved. There is a cliffhanger ending. It might be advisable to put off reading this book until the third novel is available. The cliffhanger caused me to rate this book lower than I would have if the ending had been more satisfying.
I received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
One reason why I didn't read YA in the past is because of YA stereI received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
One reason why I didn't read YA in the past is because of YA stereotypes. One of these stereotypes is the "mean girl". This trope involves a popular girl who leads a clique of girls who are all so anxious to be popular themselves that they imitate her behavior. In so many YA novels, the authors never imagine that the influential popular girl is a good role model. No, she is usually vain, selfish and cruel. Her influence causes the culture of the entire school to become toxic. One of the things I really liked about the high school aspect of Random is that Jazz, the protagonist, finds that the most trustworthy and loyal friend she has in her own age group is a girl that is the popular leader of a clique who is empathic, insightful and generous. Of course it helped that the popular clique leader is a shape shifter like Jazz.
Unfortunately, Jazz had an older sister whose experience of high school was damaging and ultimately tragic. A major plot strand of Random was Jazz's struggle to discover and deal with the truth about her sister, Celia.
Another important theme of Random is immigration. Jazz's family had come from Russia. Although Jazz was born in the United States, her parents and older siblings had changed their names and abandoned their culture in the hopes that they would be more accepted by Americans. Due to this decision to hide their Russian identity, Jazz feels cut off from the rest of her family. Since the United States is a nation of immigrants, this theme will resonate with a great many readers. I personally feel that sacrificing a family's past impoverishes family life and American society as a whole.
I realize that prejudice is the main reason why minorities hide traits that can be kept secret. The most prominent difference between Jazz's family and the majority of Americans couldn't be hidden. Shape shifters must register. Some of the laws regulating shape shifters established by America's government in Random are reasonable ones that are based on a concern with public safety. Yet they were often enforced in a barbaric and discriminatory fashion. The foundation of bias is fear, and Randoms might make people especially fearful because they are unpredictable by nature.
One of the reasons why I read science fiction and fantasy is because I am a xenophile. A xenophile enjoys encountering strangeness. There is such a thing as too much predictability, too much blandness. The opposite attitude of xenophobia is a more common one. Some xenophobes do read science fiction and fantasy. They prefer shape shifter novels that portray the shifters as monsters who are hunted down and killed. These novels are always from the perspective of the hunters. Novels written from the perspective of "monsters" could make them seem too sympathetic. Alma Alexander's choice to focus on a shape shifter girl whose family faced persecution makes xenophobes seem like monsters.
On the other hand, I am not fond of books that end abruptly leaving a very obvious narrative thread dangling due to the momentous revelation in the final scene. Authors seem to believe that this practice increases sales of the next volume in the series, but many readers find an unresolved ending unsatisfying. I am one of them. It's not that I regret reading Random. I thought it was original and very moving, but it did have shortcomings. The failure to provide what I consider to be a proper ending is one of them.
What I liked most about the concept when I picked up the book is that the city was established by the Goddess Athena. I thought that was immensely cooWhat I liked most about the concept when I picked up the book is that the city was established by the Goddess Athena. I thought that was immensely cool ! What I disliked about it is that Plato's Republic was being conflated with Atlantis which Plato wrote about in the Timaeus and Critias dialogues.
Yet Walton created some wonderful female characters who were part of this Goddess given experiment. The Goddess herself wasn't one of them. I was delighted by several human women who were brought to the island from various eras. These were women who were non-conformists within their own historical periods. They longed for the equality that Plato promised women in his republic. For their sake, I wished that I could believe that Athena's experiment would succeed.
The book was well-written and dealt with the issues that arose in this attempt at utopia in a complex and thought provoking manner. Unfortunately, the abrupt ending annoyed me so much that I nearly canceled my plans to read the sequel.
I enjoyed the circus traditions and vocabulary included in this novel. The magical element occurs in the context of centuries old beliefs. In circus fI enjoyed the circus traditions and vocabulary included in this novel. The magical element occurs in the context of centuries old beliefs. In circus families luck has always been considered an important factor in the success of an act, and losing that luck was often historically ascribed to a curse.
The two rival families that are the central focus of Girl on a Wire are the Maronis whose leading members are wire walkers, and the Garcias who star on the flying trapeze. Wire walkers and trapeze artists are both risk takers who rely heavily on precision, timing and luck. Despite these shared attributes, the Maronis and Garcias have not been allies. Instead there is a legacy of hatred between these two circus dynasties that is rooted in the past.
Jules, the sixteen year old Maroni protagonist, wants to uncover the reasons behind the enmity between the Maroni and Garcia clans; especially after she meets a charismatic male performer of her own generation whose surname is Garcia. Other reviews have called the Romeo and Juliet aspect of this novel predictable. I prefer to call it archetypal. It’s also important to note that the resolution of this story is far from predictable. I found it rather ingenious. Shakespeare would never have envisioned it. I expect to count this book among my top reads of 2014.
We generally associate Puritans with colonial witch hysteria, not Quakers. Since Quakers are supposed to be non-violent and officially did not believeWe generally associate Puritans with colonial witch hysteria, not Quakers. Since Quakers are supposed to be non-violent and officially did not believe in witchcraft, it’s hard to imagine that the lodging of a formal accusation of witchcraft would have arisen in Pennsylvania during that time period.
This has been a year in which I’ve discovered books dealing with historical Quakers engaging in activities that are against Quaker principles. Now Kari Edgren has asked me to contemplate 18th century Quakers persecuting a young woman who had benefited many members of her community. Do I think it’s believable? Based on the history I've been reading, I unfortunately do find this novel credible.
Goddess Born contains some predictable elements that are due to its being a romance. Romance readers will want to know whether it adheres to the rule that every romance must end with HEA. I have to tell them that it isn’t quite HEA. Goddess Born ends with the chance of HEA which could be setting up for a sequel. A sequel would justify a delayed HEA. I found the ending a satisfying one.
A book about a Rabbi’s cat sounds like it would be cute and whimsical rather than dealing with any serious themes. If you wanted a cute and whimsicalA book about a Rabbi’s cat sounds like it would be cute and whimsical rather than dealing with any serious themes. If you wanted a cute and whimsical book about a cat, there are plenty out there. This is not one of them. Joann Sfar, who wrote these Rabbi’s cat graphic novels, is an award winning author precisely because of his themes.
Communication is a central theme of this novel. There is a Russian character who isn’t understood by the other humans when he first arrives, yet the Russian and the Rabbi’s cat had no problem communicating. It’s pointed out in this book that the ability to communicate is based on the ability to listen. This may seem obvious, but failure to listen is a common problem in all types of communications. This means that even when there is no language barrier, humans are incapable of understanding each other when they aren’t listening. A translator is found for the Russian, but he still isn’t always understood.
Since the Russian is an artist, this book also deals with the orientation of Judaism and Islam toward art. So the question arises as to whether art is idolatry, and if so under what circumstances. The Russian artist also has an interesting response on the subject. He tells us that each art work is a prayer addressed to God. I have always been interested in the dilemma of Jewish artists, and interpretation of the second commandment which forbids graven images.
This is definitely the most interesting graphic novel that I have read in 2014.