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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Book Review – The Missing Yesterdays

The Missing Yesterdays (The Adventures of Tremain & Christopher #1)The Missing Yesterdays by Terry Marchion

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In The Missing Yesterdays by Terry Marchion, Tremain, a lovable and eccentric scientist, is up to his armpits in wacky experiments. When one goes wrong, it causes an entire civilization to disappear. It’s up to Tremain and his nephew, Christopher, to set things right. But how?

The machine that seems to be at the heart of it all sends them to realms unknown. They must unravel the puzzle of where and when they are and restore the course of time before they too wink out of existence.

I love time travel stories. I love the inherent paradoxes. The Missing Yesterdays is a good introduction to such stories for young readers–the story is not too technical and the paradoxes are not overly convoluted. There’s just enough adventure to whet young appetites and open the door to more. Recommended for Middle Grade and up.

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Book Review – Skye’s Lure

Skye's Lure: A Contemporary Fantasy Romance Mermaid eBookSkye’s Lure: A Contemporary Fantasy Romance Mermaid eBook by Angel Leya

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Skye’s Lure by Angel Leya is a bedtime story that will delight young readers. In this modern mermaid tale, two misfits, one human and one mermaid, both unhappy with their lot, get a chance to view life through the other’s eyes.

The only problem I had with the story was the kidnapping. Saying that he kidnapped her because he loved her is unacceptable and is not the kind of love I would want my children to expect. However, there is a happy ending, and I’m all for that.

I was given a free copy of Skye’s Lure in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review – Muriel Avenue Sluts

Muriel Avenue SlutsMuriel Avenue Sluts by Maggie Hasbrouck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Muriel Avenue Sluts by Maggie Hasbrouck is about how easily secrets and lies can take over your life. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that sticks with you long after the book is done. The story had me guessing from the beginning. Every time I thought I knew the direction it was taking, the author threw another curve.

The Muriel Avenue Sluts is a young adult novel, but it’s not for everyone. It’s full of sexual abuse, rape, and murder. It’s hard to read and hard to put down. It’s by far the best book I’ve read this year.

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Book Review – Moved by the Spirit

Moved by the Spirit: A Call to Work with People Living with Blindness and Visual ImpairmentsMoved by the Spirit: A Call to Work with People Living with Blindness and Visual Impairments by Dolores Hanley McDiarmid

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Moved by the Spirit by Dolores Hanley McDiarmid is the autobiographical story of the author’s experiences with blind and sight-impaired people. The reader follows her journey from when she first received the calling to work with the blind to her semi-retirement thirty-five years later. The book is filled with lighthearted and poignant remembrances told in the manner of sitting across from you at the kitchen table enjoying a cup of tea.

My favorite chapter of the book was right up front, Chapter 2, where she describes learning how to be an Orientation and Mobility Specialist by attending classes blindfolded. Orientation and Mobility instructors teach their clients how to navigate life without sight, whether it be crossing busy streets, using the bus system, or simply picking up the mail. I am sight impaired, and I understood firsthand the frustration and fear of getting from point A to point B. Her terror at walking blindly around campus with only a white cane to guide her gave her insight into her clients yet to come.

But Moved by the Spirit is much more than a memoir. The Inquiring Minds Want to Know section answers many questions about how much education is needed to enter the field of Orientation and Mobility, what school subjects help prepare for such a career, and where to find more information. Moved by the Spirit is an excellent book for young people looking to embark upon a fulfilling career. Or for people who want a career change.

I bought my copy at a book signing which took place at the Broward Lighthouse, and I can attest that the author is just as charming as her book.

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Book Review – That Moment When…

That Moment When: An Anthology of Young Adult FictionThat Moment When: An Anthology of Young Adult Fiction by Derek Murphy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

That Moment When… An Anthology of YA Authors is a collection of forty short stories and teasers from a variety of young adult authors. The book is divided into sections: Paranormal and Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic, Fantasy, Thriller and Horror, and Speculative. The stories were fascinating—I had a hard time putting the book down—and were good examples of what each author had to offer.

It wasn’t easy to narrow down my favorites out of all the displayed talent. Here are a few of the most noteworthy:

Reflection, by Katlyn Duncan, a masterful look at a young vampire who doesn’t yet know what she’s become.

Humanity’s Protectors, by David R. Bernstein, about psychic abilities and whether a person who had them would be used for good or ill.

Provisions, by Kira Lerner. This story had it all—vampires, werewolves, cannibals. I read it twice!

Running Toward Illumia, by Leya Angel, about a young misfit and a rather snarky unicorn. Need I say more?

More Than a Crush, by Kat Stiles, an eerie tale about a girl in love and what she’s prepared to do about it.

Learning to Fly, by Laura Diamond, about a boy who finally realizes a dream. With dragons. I love dragons.

That Moment When… introduced me to a bevy of Young Adult authors I might not have noticed. Their stories piqued my interest. I’ll be checking out more than a few of their books. If you enjoy reading Young Adult, I highly recommend That Moment When… You might find your new favorite author.

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