Book Review – The Children of Time

Children of TimeChildren of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not Mary Jane Watson. I don’t like spiders. And if I’d realized The Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky was about spiders, I wouldn’t have picked it up. But by the time I realized my mistake, it was too late–I was sucked in by the story. The creative, inventive, totally engrossing story. About spiders. And who would have believed that by the end of the story, I would be rooting for the little buggers?

The Children of Time is excellent science fiction filled to the brim with space flight, technology, and alien culture. It makes a point I’ve been saying for years–spiders are aliens waiting to take over the world.

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Book Review – Mostly Void, Partially Stars

Mostly Void, Partially Stars (Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, #1)Mostly Void, Partially Stars by Joseph Fink

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Welcome to Night Vale is a darkly humorous podcast about the Twilight-Zonian happenings in the small desert town of Night Vale. Mostly Void, Partially Stars is the transcript of the first season of episodes. Why read a book when a podcast is meant to be heard? For one thing, each episode is prefaced by personal insights and commentary by the producers, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. I loved getting a behind-the-scenes look. Also, by reading at my own pace, I was able to pick up nuances and references I missed while listening. I was able to page back at will and avail myself of the many inside jokes.

Mostly Void, Partially Stars is a worthy addition to the weird-book nook of your bookshelf. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys conspiracy theories and tongue-in-cheek sci-fi.

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Book Review – The Wrath of the Revenant

The Wrath of the Revenant (The Adventures of Tremain & Christopher, #3)The Wrath of the Revenant by Terry Marchion

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Adventures of Tremain and Christopher are short, fast-paced books meant for young teenagers. I don’t fit within that demographic, but I still enjoy them. The Wrath of the Revenant is the third book in the series, but don’t let that keep you from picking it up. The author lays enough groundwork to keep the reader from being confused even if they haven’t read the first two.

In The Wrath of the Revenant, Tremain and Christopher encounter an ancient, all-powerful being who threatens the colony of New Earth. The storyline hearkens back to Saturday afternoon sci-fi, and as I read, I could see myself with a bucket of popcorn curled up in front of the television.

The story was engaging. The characters not so much. I was disappointed in how different they were from the first two books. I can see Christopher changing. He’s getting older and even has a new girlfriend. (That seems to be the theme of the book–Tremain has an unexpected girlfriend, too.) But Uncle Tremain was noticeably subdued. I missed his wacky antics, dry wit, and forgetfulness. I hope he’ll be back to his eccentric old self in the next book.

That said, I enjoyed The Wrath of the Revenant and recommend it to anyone who wants a quick, fanciful read, whether you’re a teenager or not.

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Book Review – Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night ValeWelcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Welcome to Night Vale, a novel, is a little story about Jackie and Diane. These non-friends become friends as they unravel the riddle of a mysterious man who appears in guises all over town. The town, of course, is Night Vale, a place where reality doesn’t align exactly with the reality of the rest of the world.

The book is based on the popular Welcome to Night Vale podcast, which is presented as a radio show for a fictional town where all conspiracy theories are real. While the book mentions the radio show, it reads like the novel it is—and like its parent podcast, it makes poignant and irreverent references to everyday life.

Here are my favorite lines from the book:

Jackie: They shook hands. Her hand continued to shake after he let go.

Diane: She had sold a tear to Jackie that day. It had felt good to have someone explicitly value something that she did.

Wrapping your head around Welcome to Night Vale is like having an ice cream headache. It hurts, but it doesn’t stop you from eating the ice cream. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who enjoys conspiracy theories or invisible pie, which I do, although I don’t like the texture.

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Book Review – A Scent of Lavender

A Scent of LavenderA Scent of Lavender by Zelda Becht

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Scent of Lavender is about Christopher Meade, a Long Island lawyer who is finding his life predictable and rather boring. He longs to take his sailboat out and play hooky, but the demands on his time won’t allow even one day respite.

His life changes when he becomes the focus of a ghost who needs his help. Whenever she reaches out to him, he catches a scent of lavender. He has lavender-scented dreams at night, lavender-scented meetings with clients. After several days of increasing distraction, he takes off to England on a quest. He doesn’t know exactly what he’s searching for, and he finds it exhilarating. He hasn’t felt so alert and purposeful in years. Even so, he has given himself a limit of ten days to accomplish whatever it is he needs to do. Then it’s back to his humdrum life.

All of which makes Christopher Meade an extremely relatable character. I enjoyed his story of trying to lay an ancestral ghost to rest, but I enjoyed the deeper story of finding that special something missing from his life even more. A Scent of Lavender is a nice summer read, and I recommend it to anyone whose life seems a little boring.

I received a free copy of A Scent of Lavender in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review – The Stand

The StandThe Stand by Stephen King

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Do you think Stephen King is a good writer? I do. I love his characterizations and his descriptions of settings. I’m a fan. I’m not fanatical. I haven’t read everything he’s ever written, but I’ve read many of his books. Back in the day, I read The Stand, and I loved it. For many years, if anyone asked what my favorite King book was, I always said The Stand. Recently, I decided to reread the book for old time’s sake.

It is one of the worst books I’ve ever read. It is slow, plodding, unfocused. It is absolutely full of passive voice (he was running instead of he ran.) It had long monologs pontificating about the failings of society which did nothing to further the plot. If he had kept to the plot, the book would have been a quarter of the length.

All of which tells me this. Stephen King is a good writer. But he wasn’t always.

So, the next time you think of yourself as a wannabe writer or an aspiring writer, stop. Just stop. Don’t fall into that trap. Did you write that piece you hold in your hands? Then you are a writer. Maybe not a published writer. Maybe not even a good writer. But all that is fixable. Writing is not a God-given gift. It’s work. You have to learn the craft. You have to apply the craft. It takes a long time, and it’s not always fun. But it’s doable.

Stephen King is a good writer. But he wasn’t always.

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Book Review – From A Far Land

From A Far LandFrom A Far Land by G. David Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In From A Far Land by G. David Walker, we follow a seventeen-year-old boy (almost eighteen, as he so often tells us) as he steps through a door in an empty cottage and into another world–a beautiful world filled with magic, hybrid humans, and danger. His first inclination is to find a way back to Earth, but as his path becomes enmeshed with those around him, he learns to accept his fate.

From A Far Land is a study in excellent world building. The politics of the alien society were well-drawn and consistent. Characterization was also on the mark. I loved how everyone, even the bad guys, believed they were right, adding to the main character’s dilemma of knowing who to trust.

I enjoy stories about ordinary people who turn out to be more than they seem, and From A Far Land delivered on that point. But the prophecy the main character followed was never fully explained, and I didn’t get it. Also, there was a bit of time travel at the end that didn’t work for me.

On the whole, From A Far Land is an engrossing read, and I recommend the book to anyone who enjoys a light fantasy.

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Book Review – Rise of the Darkwitch

Rise of the DarkwitchRise of the Darkwitch by Ziv Gray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rise of the Darkwitch by Ziv Gray takes place on an alien world that is depicted so brilliantly I feel as if I’ve been there. People, religion, and politics are intertwined in a fascinating and believable society. The alien beings are mesmerizing from their neck scales to their tails yet retain a spark of human emotion that is relatable and endearing.

The story follows the personal journey of a sixteen-year-old girl from abused slave to feared godling. She has no idea what she’s capable of, and her burgeoning abilities surprise her as much as the reader.

I love this kind of underdog story. However, the ending prevents me from giving it full marks. I like books to have a satisfying, all-ends-tied-up conclusion even if they are part of a series. I expect there to be an overall series arc and beneath it individual book arcs. Rise of the Darkwitch doesn’t have that. It ends abruptly in the middle of a pivotal scene. I was left confused and rather annoyed.

But although the ending was not satisfying, the scenes leading to it were. I recommend Rise of the Darkwitch to science fiction fans who enjoy delving into alien cultures.

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Book Review – Monkeyboy

Monkeyboy (An Anki Legacies Adventure)Monkeyboy by S. Shane Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Evolution takes a giant step forward when a monkey from a troop that can only say howdy eats a magic stone that increases his intelligence tenfold. He is adopted into a loving family and treated like any school-aged child. His fondest dream is to find more stones to feed to his cousins so as not to be the only monkeyboy.

He’s not the only one with such a dream, however. A radical group also searches for the magic stones with the intention of creating an army. Monkeyboy’s focus shifts from finding the stones for personal gain to finding them before they can be misused.

Monkeyboy by Shane Thomas is a rollicking adventure any child will enjoy. It’s full of juvenile humor. The pace never quits and, of course, Monkeyboy and his friends save the day.

As an adult, I enjoyed the story for other reasons. I liked that there was no stigma surrounding adoption. I liked that the adults weren’t depicted as overbearing or dismissive as is so often seen in MG fiction. The parents were supportive, understanding, and forgiving of Monkeyboy’s antics. They were protective of their children, yet included them in their excursions so they could learn outside the schoolroom.

Inventive and entertaining, Monkeyboy would make a fine bedtime story.

I was given a free Advanced Reader Copy of Monkeyboy in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review – Horror Guide to Florida

Horror Guide to Florida (Horror Guide to ... Book 2)Horror Guide to Florida by David Goudsward

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Horror Guide to Florida by David Goudsward is an encyclopedia of all the urban legends of Florida and the movies that were made to celebrate such legends. It’s totally addictive. You know how sometimes you look up a word in the dictionary and the word next to it is interesting too and before you know it you’re so engrossed that you read words for an hour? Yeah. Horror Guide is like that.

I bought Horror Guide at a local book fair where I met the author. I found him as fascinating as his book. He told me all about his next project. I can’t wait to read it.

If you live in Florida or if you plan to visit, I highly recommend Horror Guide to Florida. It’s a terrific reference book and will help you plan interesting road trips. I know you’ll enjoy it.

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