The thing I enjoy most in much of Heather Adkins' writing is the family dynamic portrayed among the characters, whether it is the thrust of the story...moreThe thing I enjoy most in much of Heather Adkins' writing is the family dynamic portrayed among the characters, whether it is the thrust of the story as in *Cause & Effect* or a smaller, largely self-made part of the central character's world, as in her Vale Avari stories (like *The Temple*). As *The House* is the story of the Owens family moving into an old ancestral property which still carries a dark legacy from the past, the interplay between Sue, her siblings, and parents, forms the solid backdrop of the story when, as one might expect, weird things begin to happen in the old house. For me the tension of mysterious stains, ghostly sounds, and strange apparitions worked precisely because I cared about the family around which they occurred. The House is a good ghost-story of a read, as it remains grounded in recognizable and well-rendered relationships. These sorts of stories don't work for me if I don't care about the people in them, and I cared about the Owens family, as I felt like I knew them.(less)
I am giving five stars to Tara West’s prelude to the *Keepers of the Stones* fantasy series on its own terms. As packaged here, “Witch Flame” is an in...moreI am giving five stars to Tara West’s prelude to the *Keepers of the Stones* fantasy series on its own terms. As packaged here, “Witch Flame” is an introduction to the world, deities, and mythology of the larger fantasy setting underlying additional books. It combines a short story describing an important character (Feira’s) early life and her flight from her homeland, with an origin myth of the world. As such, I don’t feel I can really “rate” the book just in terms of the story itself, but rather as what it is: An entry point to a larger world. Much like Tolkien’s Silmarillion, “Witch Flame” is an augmentation to a larger story, and as it does manage to display West’s storytelling abilities along the way to good effect, I’m confident reading these pieces may serve to draw the reader into the bigger works. (less)
It seems like the thing to do when writing a review of a parody would be to write a parody of a review... but that would be a bit too clever for me by...moreIt seems like the thing to do when writing a review of a parody would be to write a parody of a review... but that would be a bit too clever for me by half. "Attack of the Fairytale Zombies" is not that, by which I mean it is clever, but not *too* clever. Yes, it's a ribald and rambunctious parody of "Save the Kingdom from nasty creatures" fantasy, overblown zombie apocalypse stuff, and fairytales both old and new. It is often hilarious and frequently foul, and yet even beyond that, it still manages somehow to be a good, solid story with engaging characters you'll find yourself rooting for - even when the author may at any given moment point out how ridiculous they and their plight is. PJ Jones tells a funny, irreverent, and truly whacky story, and yet it still manages to be a good story throughout. It's fun to watch, or rather, to read. (less)
One of the hardest things for a family story dealing with themes of loss and grief to do is to avoid becoming maudlin and sentimental. It is only too...moreOne of the hardest things for a family story dealing with themes of loss and grief to do is to avoid becoming maudlin and sentimental. It is only too easy for such a story to wallow in the feeling of bereavement, just to gin-up an emotional effect in the reader. It can even happen without an author trying to do it, as these are emotional themes. Everybody feels something for family, and everyone has experiences of loss that are often close to the surface.
For me, "Cause & Effect" avoided that pitfall. The emotion struck me as authentic, and I never felt manipulated for effect. To me it is a work of honesty, and while only of novella length, the world within it is wide enough to hold grief, and happiness, regret, and redemption. I really enjoyed reading this book.(less)
With novels, my reviews tend to max out at 4 as I have only ever gone 5 with my "favorite books ever," but for short stories my standards are differen...moreWith novels, my reviews tend to max out at 4 as I have only ever gone 5 with my "favorite books ever," but for short stories my standards are different. I am looking for a short read that will be engaging and entertaining in the moment, and the two stories here fit the bill perfectly. Both are hilarious not only on the level of skewering the pretensions of certain genres, but also in the drawing of the characters and situations. Combining those elements is not always easy but Jones does it very well here, mixing bawdy humor and solid story-telling for laughs, with a wink. (less)
I read more history than anything else, and I was intrigued by Blue Valley's story of fantasy-style, supernatural elements (pun intended, I could not...moreI read more history than anything else, and I was intrigued by Blue Valley's story of fantasy-style, supernatural elements (pun intended, I could not help myself) set against the backdrop of WWII, post-Pearl Harbor paranoia and the internment of US citizens of Japanese descent. While the interments are not the focus of the book, they are a part of the texture and mood to the California valley in which most of the novel takes place, heightening the reactions of the people living in the agricultural community once something very, very wrong starts to happen to the land that is their life.
Most of the story belongs to Will Leary, a government scientist sent to the afflicted valley, where he meets Sarah. Sarah is the young woman who, without revealing too much, will come to be seen by others as the cause of the Valley's problems, the only chance of correcting them, or a weapon for the war effort.
The relationship between Will and Sarah is the heart of the novel, and though from the very beginning it is influenced by forces beyond their control, the exploration of it is one of the novel's strengths. Somewhat less successful are a few "action scenes" that seem a bit cumbersome and are not always easy to follow in their choreography. Those bits do not keep the book from being successful overall, and a well-done meld of Fantasy and Historical Fiction elements that bends the genres without breaking them. The series is positioned to move forward from WWII into subsequent eras, and promises to be rewarding along the way.(less)
My favorite version of the classic Thucydides text, as what can often be long and very dense passages are interrupted with ample maps and internal ref...moreMy favorite version of the classic Thucydides text, as what can often be long and very dense passages are interrupted with ample maps and internal references to keep the reader "grounded" in time and place. I found this helped a great deal when fitting the details of particular battles, campaigns, and invasions within the larger framework of the ongoing war.(less)