I started this on my vacation and got in trouble because I was so sucked in. I've known Kathleen Valentine through social media for awhile now and I'v...moreI started this on my vacation and got in trouble because I was so sucked in. I've known Kathleen Valentine through social media for awhile now and I've gotten several of her books but hadn't read them yet because I do that...buy too many books and then fail to get around to them in a timely fashion.
Happily I bought this and started reading right away. My favourite thing about it was how terrifically gothic the atmosphere was. The whole story has its own mood. You feel like you're going to a unique place, a garden enclosed by wrought iron.
It was compared to _Rebecca_, and indeed there are some references to du Maurier's classic in the story. That pleased me because I really hate it when an author has an obvious tie to a previous work but just slides in little hints. Here Valentine acknowledges outright one character's similarity to another of du Maurier's.
But I'm getting off topic. The main topic is that this book is rich and varied and the kind of thing that could be adapted into a haunting musical. (less)
Just google Freddie. That seems to be all this author did. There was very little substantive stuff here that wasn't already available online or in pre...moreJust google Freddie. That seems to be all this author did. There was very little substantive stuff here that wasn't already available online or in previously published tell-alls from Freddie's partners. I ended up quitting the book and returning for refund. I'm not paying somebody else $15.75 to Google stuff. (less)
f you’re like me, you’re fascinated by anything to do with dragons. For years I collected antique maps just for all the fanciful dragon illustrations...moref you’re like me, you’re fascinated by anything to do with dragons. For years I collected antique maps just for all the fanciful dragon illustrations in the unexplored edges of the world. Anything with a dragon draws me, so it’s no wonder I read a lot of epic fantasy–that genre is replete with the fire-breathing critters.
So when my friend Jill (see how I’m just sticking this “full disclosure” in here like this? But yes, full disclosure: I’m friends with this author) asked me to beta read her book about dragons and time travel and romance I was in, despite the fact that “time travel romance” is something I’m normally allergic to nearly as much as I’m compelled by the dragons.
This is not your ordinary fantasy, and I’m pretty much going to say that if you’re looking for another juvenile Eragon or a repeat of the sexually abusive Outlander, you can just keep looking.
This is an Urban Fantasy for the person who loves dragons and enjoys hanging out with smart people.
Anna is a shy, diligent woman who keeps to herself and lives a rigid life ruled by routine and filled with a comfortable blandness. When an eccentric free spirited world traveler called Franklin hires Anna as his research assistant the safe places begin to melt like sugar in the Portland rain. He disappears frequently. Is he insane or is he truly menaced by a dragon who has cursed his family with a spell designed to last fourteen generations? And if that curse is real, what does that mean for Anna? Will she lose her heart to a man whose love will cost her life?
I absolutely loved this book the first time I read it. I loved it even more the second time I read it. When it was finally released for Kindle I actually PAID for my copy–a book I’d already read twice.
That should tell you just how wonderful a story this truly is. This book does NOT get 5 stars because it's written by my friend. It does NOT get 5 stars because I just hand out 5 stars like candy at a parade. I'm neither that loving nor that generous. Heh. It gets 5 stars because it is an out and out great book. It tells a story that isn't told that often anymore, and it does so in a fresh, interesting way.
------ Before I go I'm going to throw in a note about the cover. I'm a cover snob. I have seen a lot of people on Amazon slam the book because of the cover and had I not known the whole story behind it I may have been tempted to say "don't draw your own cover, it makes the book look homemade." But the author's daughter drew the cover when the commissioned artist disappeared without delivering the artwork. And the author's daughter did a bang-up job of artistically expressing the themes and ideas of the story. Which, given the number of covers I've seen lately with blond girls (when the text specifically says the heroines are redheads or brunettes), I figure this may look homemade, but at least it looks like the cover artist has some grasp of the essential concept. And, hey, There is absolutely not one manboob. And that, my friends, is always refreshing. (less)
The story focuses on an alcoholic teenager in a quasi-medieval setting who finds himself accidentally on a hero’s journey. There were great interludes...moreThe story focuses on an alcoholic teenager in a quasi-medieval setting who finds himself accidentally on a hero’s journey. There were great interludes of story as the author introduced us to the concepts of the magic in his world and hero Errol Stone’s place in it. The basic philosophy undergirding the world and the story are strong–that’s a major deal for me. The religion hews to Orthodox Christianity without being a painful one-to-one copy of it; this is also a good thing in a book offered primarily to Christians. There is a lot of action, with hand-to-hand combat a-plenty and a couple of intense battle scenes that bring the pain.
So why am I giving this book 3.5 stars?
Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve read Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve read Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. Those are 5-star epic fantasy reads. Those are books you want to crawl into and live inside forever. Those books have strong world-building. You feel like you’re in this world. You can taste the food and see the dragons and smell the scent of the medica. You wince when Kvothe is whipped. The world-building in Cast Of Stones is barely there. Several times you’ll get a non-description along the lines of “he saw what looked like an ornate living quarters. He had never seen the like, or even imagined it.” Ok. Great. Tell me what it really looks like. Describe it in more detail than “ornate”. People read fantasy to go places they cannot ever go. I will never ever be able to go to Westeros without George Martin’s descriptions. I will never ride a mule to the Aerie. If you aren’t taking me any place interesting I can’t put your book up against the greats of fantasy in equal measure.
Thatb being said, Cast Of Stones is part of a good book. If it were a whole book it might earn at least 4, if not 4.5 stars. But, alas, it is Christian targeted fiction. So we all know what that means….it has Left Behinditis. When I got a good way into it on the Kindle and things were just hitting a stride, a “beginning of Act 2″ stride, I was excited. “Oooh, ” I thought “this is getting REALLY INTERESTING! I can’t wait to see where we’re going.” Then I looked in the bottom corner and saw a dreaded 94%. Of course. This is of course ONE BOOK CARVED INTO THREE PARTS. Dear Christian-targeted publishers: Fantasy stories are NOT The Holy Trinity. You don’t have to keep dividing the one into three and then selling them that way.
So yes, I got this book for free, but if I want to read the rest of it I have to pay $20.
Despite the drawbacks with the world-building and the “where is the rest of this story?” business, this is a much better book than I expected. It’s got great bones and is headed into compelling territory with its characters and their motivations. I sincerely hope this is indicative of what the genre can do.
I am not comfortable assigning a star rating to this one; usually books I abandon get one star but this novel is a special case.
The bit of it that I...moreI am not comfortable assigning a star rating to this one; usually books I abandon get one star but this novel is a special case.
The bit of it that I read was well-done. It's obvious that Shaw was a successful novelist for good reason. However it's also obvious that this is less _Winds of War_ and more _Dynasty_.
For me the most interesting part of the experience was just how dated the book feels. You can definitely tell it is a saga written between 1965-1974. Language, narrative manner, plot devices and character profiles are all very mid-Sixties in a way that's hard to describe. The best I can do is to say that this is the fiction equivalent of wood paneling and Spanish Gold shag carpeting.(less)
The title of this book is so misleading. It should've been called _The Giant Strawman_. It was very obviously designed to expose the hypocrisy of Chri...moreThe title of this book is so misleading. It should've been called _The Giant Strawman_. It was very obviously designed to expose the hypocrisy of Christians. This is much easier to do if you _create_ the hypocritical characters, and then have them in absurdly hypocritical situations doing horrible things.
The author appears to have read a few articles about Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and then based her characters on that. The supposedly-Evangelical characters do things that most evangelical Christians avoid: wine with communion, crossing oneself after prayer.
The titular character--their fifteen year old daughter--is the first-person narrator of the story. Her tourism through poverty is meant to be moving and educational but it really is tourism, as it lacks the real anxiety of actual poverty.
Stories about rich people who play poor to Learn From The Poor are sheer exploitation.