June 15, 2017

Patrimony by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  Patrimony
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Pages:  255
Genre:  Science Fiction
Series:  The Humanx Commonwealth, Book 25

Synopsis:  "I know who your father is . . . Gestalt." A shocked Flinx hears these dying words from one of the renegade eugenicists whose experiments with humans twenty-odd years ago shocked the galaxy . . . and spawned Flinx. So Flinx and his minidrag, Pip, venture to Gestalt, an out-of-the-way planet that may supply the key to Flinx's shadowy past and strange powers.  Unfortunately for Flinx, Gestalt also hosts a resident bounty hunter who's just learned about the stupendous reward offered for a certain dead redhead.  Flinx gets a chance to test his adversary's skills when our hero's skimmer is blasted out of the sky and into a raging river in the middle of nowhere -- a nowhere of impossible terrain and ravenous, carnivorous beasts.

Review:  Well, Flinx is back.  I knew he would be.  It's not that I don't like him, but I just don't love him.  I don't really feel sorry for him, although I suspect I'm supposed to.  He's just sort of whiny, with a whole 'poor little rich boy' thing.

Still, the story was solid and the bounty hunter was fun.  Gestalt is an interesting planet with very wonderful native beings.  All in all, it's really about the science fiction to me.  And, this is good science fiction.

Rating:  7 / 10

June 11, 2017

The Good Guy by Dean Koontz

Title:  The Good Guy
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  447
Genre:  Thriller
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis: Timothy Carrier, having a beer after work at his friend’s tavern, enjoys drawing eccentric customers into amusing conversations. But the jittery man who sits next to him tonight has mistaken Tim for someone very different—and passes to him a manila envelope full of cash.

“Ten thousand now. You get the rest when she’s gone.

The stranger walks out, leaving a photo of the pretty woman marked for death, and her address. But things are about to get worse. In minutes another stranger sits next to Tim. This one is a cold-blooded killer who believes Tim is the man who has hired him.

Thinking fast, Tim says, “I’ve had a change of heart. You get ten thousand—for doing nothing. Call it a no-kill fee.” He keeps the photo and gives the money to the hired killer. And when Tim secretly follows the man out of the tavern, he gets a further shock: the hired killer is a cop.

Suddenly, Tim Carrier, an ordinary guy, is at the center of a mystery of extraordinary proportions, the one man who can save an innocent life and stop a killer far more powerful than any cop…and as relentless as evil incarnate. But first Tim must discover within himself the capacity for selflessness, endurance, and courage that can turn even an ordinary man into a hero, inner resources that will transform his idea of who he is and what it takes to be The Good Guy.

Review:  I'm really not sure how I ended up with so many books by this author.  Probably because of far too many yard sales and visits to the Friends of the Library book sales.  I made a pact to finish at least a few of the great many of his books I have this year.

This one was very good.  The bad guy was deliciously evil.  The action was almost non-stop.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

June 6, 2017

The Howling Stones by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  The Howling Stones
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Pages:  326
Genre:  Science Fiction
Series:  Humanx Commonwealth, Book 24

Synopsis:  Enter another realm in the amazing world of the Humanx Commonwealth--the interstellar empire governed jointly by humans and aliens!

The newly discovered planet of Senisran was a veritable paradise--a sprawling world of vast oceans dotted with thousands of lush islands and copious deposits of rare-earths and minerals. First-contact specialist Pulickel Tomochelor's mission to Senisran was straightforward: Secure mining rights for the Humanx Commonwealth before the vicious AAnn Empire beat them to the chase. With Senisran's Parramat clan resisting entreaty, negotiations could be difficult, but Pulickel was more comfortable with aliens than with his own species, and looked forward to a triumphant return to Earth.

He hadn't counted on the incredible secret of Parramat, though: the strange, powerful green stones that the tribe used to manipulate the forces of nature. Within those stones lay an awesome technology the origin of which was lost in time--a technology that had to be kept from the AAnn at any cost . . .

Review:  This was one of the best books of this series!  The main character in the series, Flinx, was nowhere to be found.....and I think I liked it that way.  I get a little tired of Flinx and his melodrama.  Whether that is the reason or not, I believe this is in the top three books from this set.

Engaging and incredible, the story of the Parramat and their stones is one I won't soon forget.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

June 2, 2017

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Title:  Picnic at Hanging Rock
Author:  Joan Lindsay
Pages:  196
Genre:  Mystery
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  It was a cloudless summer day in the year 1900. Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of the secluded volcanic outcropping. Farther, higher, until at last they disappeared. They never returned.

Haunting, mysterious, and subtly erotic, Picnic at Hanging Rock inspired the iconic 1975 film of the same name by Peter Weir. A beguiling masterpiece of Australian literature, it stands with Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca as a masterpiece of otherworldly intrigue.

Review:  I wasn't sure what to expect from this novel.  What I got was pure excellence.  This author's descriptions are wonderful.  The story reads like a dream.  You see the places, you care about the characters, and you wonder what really happened at Hanging Rock.

Even though it remains a mystery even after the book is done, I felt in no way cheated.  It was just too darn good of a story.  I'll be keeping this book.  I'm sure I'll read it again.  I'm so glad I read this!

Rating:  10 / 10

June 1, 2017

Demon Seed by Dean Koontz

Title:  Demon Seed
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  301
Genre:  Horror
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis: Susan Harris lived in self-imposed seclusion in a mansion featuring numerous automated systems controlled by a state-of-the-art computer. Every comfort was provided and in this often unsafe world of ours, her security was absolute.

But now her security system has been breached, her sanctuary from the outside world violated by an insidious artificial intelligence which has taken control of her house. In the privacy of her own home, and against her will, Susan will experience an inconceivable act of terror. She will become the object of the ultimate computer's consuming obsession: to learn everything there is to know about the flesh...

Review:  This story is told by the artificial intelligence known as Adam Two in his report to his creators who are sitting judgement on his actions.  Adam Two wanted was actually self-aware.  He was missing only one thing.  He wanted to be flesh, not circuits and wiring.  Adam Two had no conscience whatsoever in pursuing his dream.

It is a great premise.  It is, unfortunately, not at all a great story.  It took me forever to get through even though there were some harrowing scenes.  It's just very poorly done.  I understand this book was made into a movie.  I think I'll pass on watching it.

It is a shame to note that in the afterword the author mentions re-writing this story for the version I read.  I assume that is because the original version was worse than this one.  I've found that this author is either really, really great or really awful.  This one was just awful.

Rating:  1.5 / 10

May 28, 2017

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Title:  On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  291
Genre:  Non-Fiction
Series:  Stand Alone

...books are a uniquely portable magic.

Synopsis:  Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have.  King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999 -- and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery.  Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it -- fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story told well.

Traditionally, the muses were women, but mine's a guy.  I'm afraid we'll just have to live with that.

Review:  I wasn't sure what to expect with this book.  I went into it knowing that I'm not a writer.  I never will be.  I just don't have that gift.  I shouldn't have worried.  Stephen King made the book so much fun to read, even though I knew I'd never use the advice he was giving.

His memories of his childhood and the story of what happened with a van that nearly killed him in 1999 were heartbreaking and touching.  I admire Mr. King more (if that's possible!) than I did before I read this book.

His complete honesty and his interesting life make this book a great read, whether you plan to write or not.  If you are a writer (or want to be), I'd say that it's necessary reading.

Rating:  9 / 10

May 24, 2017

The Prophet of Akhran by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

Title:  The Prophet of Akhran
Author:  Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Pages:  390
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Rose of the Prophet, Book 3

Synopsis:  As the Great War of the Gods rages, it seems as though the terrible Quar, God of Reality, Greed, and Law, will emerge the victor.  Even the immortals have abandoned their mortal masters to join the the battle above.

Trapped without their immortal servants on the shore of the Kurdin Sea, Khardan, Zohra, and the wizard Mathew must cross the vast desert known as the Sun's Anvil - a feat no man has ever performed.

Like the legendary Rose of the Prophet, the nomads struggle to survive the journey.  If they succeed, they will face more than combat with the enemy, for the Amir's hardened warriors are led by Achmed, the fiercest of men....and Khardan's brother.

Review:  This was a really good story, with plenty of action and adventure.  Unfortunately, the ending was a disappointment.  It ended very abruptly with no resolution to the many large problems that faced the Gods and the nomads.

I did enjoy the story but after I got to the last page, I thought perhaps there were pages missing.  I just couldn't believe the ending gave so little closure.  I felt cheated that I'd never know what happened with the main stories that I'd been following.  After how wonderful the last book was, I was expecting better than this.

Rating:  4.5 / 10

May 19, 2017

The Paladin of the Night by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

Title:  The Paladin of the Night
Author:  Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Pages:  375
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Rose of the Prophet, Book 2

Synopsis:  The Great War of the Gods means nothing to the proud people on the mortal planet--until Akhran the Wandering God decrees the union of two mighty  feuding clans. Though the families are fierce Warriors, they are few in number. Even the marriage of  Khardan and Zohra is not enough to over power the  strength of the invading army or prevent the  imprisonment of their peoples.

Now, with Khardan and Zohra mysteriously missing--seemingly cowards who hid from certain defeat--the two clans have lost all  hope of ever again seeing their beloved open skies. But Prince Khardan and Princess Zohra, aided by the wizard Mathew, have been given another mission...a mission that at first seems less useful than counting the many grains of the desert sands, but soon proves to be of far more lasting importance.

Review:  This book was even more exciting than the first one!  One God, Quar, has decided to become the only God and he will stop at nothing to cause the other Gods to vanish from the world.

The Goddess Death is involved in his plans, unknowingly.  The messengers of the gods are vanishing.  People are being put to death.  It is jihad in the mortal realm and in the heavens.

Incredible, impossible to put down.  I can't wait for the final, sure to be dramatic, ending to this trilogy!

Rating:  8.5 / 10

May 16, 2017

The Will of the Wanderer by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

Title:  The Will of the Wanderer
Author:  Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Pages:  444
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  Rose of the Prophet, Book 1

Synopsis: Since time began, twenty Gods have ruled the  universe. Though each god possessed different abilities, each was all-powerful within his realm. Now one of the Gods has upset the balance of power, leaving the others scrambling for control in the new order...

Here is the epic tale of  the Great War of the Gods--and the proud people  upon whom the fate of the world depends. When the God of the desert, Akhran the Wanderer, declares that two clans must band together despite their centuries-old rivalry, their first response is  outrage. But they are a devout people and so reluctantly bow to his bidding.

Enemies from  birth, the headstrong Prince Khardan and impetuous Princess Zohra must unite in marriage to stop Quar, the God of Reality, Greed, and Law, from  enslaving their people.

But can Khardan and Zohra keep from betraying each other? Can their two peoples maintain their fragile alliance until the long-awaited flowering of the legendary Rose of the Prophet?

Against the powerful legions of the evil Amir, Khardan and Zohra fight to save the desert people--a fight unexpectedly joined by an exiled wizard named Mathew and the mysterious powers of his alien land.

Review:  I didn't expect to enjoy this book half as much as I did.  The women are second-class citizens.  The twenty gods and their messengers exist and interact with the people.  The setting is very much like the Middle East.  However, I did enjoy it, mostly because the story was so engaging.  It had thrills and adventure and love and magic, pretty much everything you can ask for in a fantasy novel.

I've yet to find a series of books by Margaret Weis that I loved as much as her Death Gate series but this one is well done and I've already begun the second book.

Rating:  7 / 10

May 12, 2017

Phantoms - The Movie

I've tried three times to watch this movie.  I have not been able to finish it.  From the very start, the story is changed so much from the book that I cannot believe the author (Dean Koontz) had anything to do with it.  Unfortunately he's credited with writing the screenplay.

The main character, Jenny, has a younger sister.  Lisa is a very young, very scared 14 year old in the book.  In the movie, she looks like a very grown up and sexually active 17 year old.  That changes a good bit of the plot right there.

To make matters worse, Frank Autry (one of the best secondary characters in the book) is just not in the movie at all.  Add that to the fact that they chose Ben Affleck to play the sheriff and all expectations go down the drain.  I love Ben Affleck, but he is NOT the right actor for the character portrayed in the book.  Instead of coming across as a very haunted and strong person, he comes across as a really obnoxious action hero.  I'll be nice and give this a half of a star since some of what I watched was scary.

May 11, 2017

Revelation by C. J. Sansom

Title:  Revelation
Author:  C. J. Sansom
Pages:  550
Genre:  Historical Fiction / Mystery
Series:  Shardlake, Book 4

Synopsis:  In Revelation, Sansom’s newest book in the series, the year is 1543 and King Henry VIII is wooing Lady Catherine Parr, a woman sympathetic to reform, whom he wants for his sixth wife— much to the dismay of Archbishop Cranmer and the embattled Protestant faction at court. Meanwhile, Matthew Shardlake is working to defend a teenage boy, a religious fanatic who is being held in the infamous Bedlam hospital for the insane. When an old friend of Shardlake’s is murdered, he vows to bring the killer to justice. His search leads him back to Bedlam but also to Catherine Parr—and the dark prophecies of the Book of Revelation. As Bishop Bonner prepares to purge London of Protestants, Shardlake, with his assistant Jack Barak, uncovers a series of horrific murders that shake them all to the core.

Review:  These are some of the best historical fiction out there.  I believe I like this author as well as I do Sharon Penman and that is saying something.  Plus, his main character, Matthew Shardlake, is wonderful.  A lawyer by trade, Matthew finds himself embroiled in mysteries and politics (usually at the same time).

This story, mainly about the search for a serial killer, is chilling and full of adventure.  The descriptions of life in London in 1543 are realistic (and sometimes disgusting).  At the end, the Historical Note shows just how much research went into making this book as true to the times as possible.

I have one more Shardlake book to read and then there is another one I don't have.  After that, there seem to be no more coming.  I'll miss them.  This author has two other novels, both set in the 1940's, and perhaps I'll give them a try, but I won't love them like I've loved these books set in the early Renaissance in England.

Rating:  10 / 10

May 5, 2017

Phantoms by Dean Koontz

Title:  Phantoms
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  434
Genre:  Horror
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis: A tale of an abandoned town and the unimaginable truth behind its silence...

Now with a new afterword, Dean Koontz explains the impact Phantoms had on his career.


Review:  Do not read this book after dark!!  It is scary and drags you in kicking and screaming.  It makes you believe in The Ancient Enemy, who calls himself by many names, including Legion and Satan.  As much as I wanted to believe that this was another horror story with superstition and fantasy as a basis, it seemed far too scientific and real.  Very scary!!

The horror is non-stop, until the very end, and just when you think it's safe....it's not.  I finished the book in just over 24 hours.  I highly recommend this story.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

May 4, 2017

Read It Again, Sam Wrap-Up

I actually completed my goal on April 24th, but I knew I had one more book and I wanted to have all the re-reads on my list before I did this post.  It's the first challenge I completed this year!!

I chose the level Feeling Nostalgic (Reread 8 books).  I re-read the following books:

1.  The Gunslinger by Stephen King
2.  The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
3.  The Waste Lands by Stephen King
4.  Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
5.  Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
6.  The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King
7.  Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
8.  Song of Susannah by Stephen King
9.  The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Some of these books had only been read once before (Doomsday Book  and the last three of The Dark Tower series) and one I read again for the *eleventh* time (The Gunslinger).  I enjoyed each and every book I chose for this challenge and I'm planning to do this challenge again next year!

The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Title:  The Dark Tower
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  845
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 7

"May you find your Tower, Roland, and breach it, and may you climb to the top!"

Synopsis: All good things must come to an end, Constant Reader, and not even Stephen King can make a story that goes on forever. The tale of Roland Deschain's relentless quest for the Dark Tower has, the author fears, sorely tried the patience of those who have followed it from its earliest chapters. But attend to it a while longer, if it pleases you, for this volume is the last, and often the last things are best.

Roland's ka-tet remains intact, though scattered over wheres and whens. Susannah-Mia has been carried from the Dixie Pig (in the summer of 1999) to a birthing room -- really a chamber of horrors -- in Thunderclap's Fedic; Jake and Father Callahan, with Oy between them, have entered the restaurant on Lex and Sixty-first with weapons drawn, little knowing how numerous and noxious are their foes. Roland and Eddie are with John Cullum in Maine, in 1977, looking for the site on Turtleback Lane where "walk-ins" have been often seen. They want desperately to get back to the others, to Susannah especially, and yet they have come to realize that the world they need to escape is the only one that matters.

Thus the book opens, like a door to the uttermost reaches of Stephen King's imagination. You've come this far. Come a little farther. Come all the way. The sound you hear may be the slamming of the door behind you. Welcome to The Dark Tower.

Because when ka-tet breaks, the end always comes quickly.

Review:  The last book in The Dark Tower series is just plain incredible and scary and sad.  It's a wonderful story.  I can't say too much because I'm afraid I'll give spoilers, but rest assured that this book is an epic ending to an incredible series.

Ted Brautigan (from Hearts in Atlantis) makes an appearance, as does Patrick Danville (Insomnia).  There are so many completely happy and completely horrible moments in this story that I found myself crying one moment and laughing the next.

Now that I've re-read the entire series, I remember why this is (and always will be) one of my two favorite series of all time.

Rating:  10 / 10

May 1, 2017

A to Z ~ Reflections

I made it through all of the letters this time around and without changing my theme!  It was so nice to meet new people and visit new blogs!

I was taught something new by Sue at The Great Raven.  Thanks to Sue, I now have a Followers gadget on my blog!!

I found so many great themes and posts.  My A to Z went from April Fools' Day to Zicree, with every post somehow related to books.  I think my favorite post was K ~ King.  Stephen King is just amazing!  I also really enjoyed writing O ~ One Thing.  I liked how free I felt, writing about something that means so much to me, rather than just reviewing a book or an author.

For anyone questioning whether this blogging challenge works, it does.  I usually get about 480 visitors per month, which is fine because I really just blog about books because I love doing it.  In April, it was 1,584 -- over THREE TIMES the number.  I also have six followers, which is six more than I had a month ago.  It was a wild ride.  I am glad I finished.  I'll look forward to next year.

April 29, 2017

Z ~ Zicree

Marc Zicree is yet another author I discovered quite by accident at the Friends of the Library book sale.  Yes, I have been very lucky with my used books from that source.  His Magic Time trilogy was magical.

I loved all three books.  You can read my reviews here:  Magic Time, Angelfire and Ghostlands.  I really only bought them because of the artwork (I'm a sucker for great cover art) and because the author's name started with that impossible-to-find letter Z, but I ended up finding out that they contained an original story that I loved.

Look for them.  Try the Friends of the Library book sale.  Or Amazon.  Or your local library.  They're worth finding.

April 28, 2017

Y ~ Yarrow

Charles de Lint is one of my favorite fantasy authors.  His Newford series is (as usual) very long and completely wonderful.  Yarrow starts with Y and is pretty much everything I ask for in a fantasy novel.  I remember thinking I'd never love another of his books as much as his The Riddle of the Wren, but I was wrong.  Mr. de Lint has an endless ability to write books I love.

It was a keeper, but somehow has been lost in one of my many moves.  I wish I still had it and hope one day to find another copy.

April 27, 2017

X ~ An Xt Called Stanley

An Xt Called Stanley by Robert Trebor is one of those books I love because it surprised me.  I found it, with it's interesting artwork and intriguing synopsis, at yet another Friends of the Library book sale.  When you get a book you've never heard of by an author you've never heard of for a quarter, you hope for the best and prepare to be disappointed.

This book was such a great example of classic science fiction.  I read it almost ten years ago now and still remember it with fondness.  I don't imagine it's easy to find but if you find a copy, grab it.  You will be glad you did.

April 26, 2017

W ~ Without Remorse

Without Remorse by Tom Clancy is part of the Jack Ryan universe.  This series includes so many great thrillers:  The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, The Sum of All Fears, and Executive Orders, just to name a few.

Many of them have been made into movies.  Harrison Ford has played Jack Ryan.  Sean Connery was in the movie version of The Hunt for Red October.  These are seriously some of the best political thrillers ever.

Sure, there are twenty-two novels in the series, some of which I haven't read yet, but I've yet to be disappointed and I do love a good, long series.  They are everything good thrillers should be.

April 25, 2017

V ~ Van Scyoc

Sydney Van Scyoc writes some of the most enchanting science fiction out there.  I've read nearly all of her stories and they are so very good.

I loved her series Sunstone Scrolls best of all.  It's one of my keepers and that is saying something.  I currently have 225 books, most never read, so keeping something I've read means I know I'll read it again some day.  If you love really good science fiction and haven't tried this author, you're missing out!

April 24, 2017

Song of Susannah by Stephen King

Title:  Song of Susannah
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  411
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 6

From the Portland Sunday Telegram, June 20, 1999:

Synopsis: Song of Susannah is at once a book of revelation, a fascinating key to the unfolding mystery of the Dark Tower, and a fast-paced story of double-barreled suspense.  To give birth to her "chap," demon-mother Mia has usurped the body of Susannah Dean and used the power of Black Thirteen to transport to New York City in the summer of 1999. The city is strange to Susannah...and terrifying to the "daughter of none," who shares her body and mind.

Saving the Tower depends not only on rescuing Susannah but also on securing the vacant lot Calvin Tower owns before he loses it to the Sombra Corporation. Enlisting the aid of Manni senders, the remaining ka-tet climbs to the Doorway Cave...and discovers that magic has its own mind. It falls to the boy, the billy-bumbler, and the fallen priest to find Susannah-Mia, who, in a struggle to cope -- with each other and with an alien environment -- "go todash" to Castle Discordia on the border of End-World. In that forsaken place, Mia reveals her origins, her purpose, and her fierce desire to mother whatever creature the two of them have carried to term.

Eddie and Roland, meanwhile, tumble into western Maine in the summer of 1977, a world that should be idyllic but isn't. For one thing, it is real, and the bullets are flying. For another, it is inhabited by the author of a novel called 'Salem's Lot, a writer who turns out to be as shocked by them as they are by him.  These are the simple vectors of a story rich in complexity and conflict. Its dual climaxes, one at the entrance to a deadly dining establishment and the other appended to the pages of a writer's journal, will leave readers gasping for the saga's final volume (which, Dear Reader, follows soon, say thank ya).

Review:  Again, I was amazed.  I'd read this story before, but I'd forgotten how magical and darkly scary it is.  I promised myself I'd spread these books out, but that promise is broken.  I've already started the next (and last) book in this series.

The synopsis gives the bare bones of the plot, but doesn't mention the wonderful character that Roland and Eddie meet in Maine.  They meet John Cullum, an older man who helps them with incredible courage and hospitality at a time when they need both.  They also meet Stephen King, the creator of their epic tale.  Pretty cool stuff.

It also left me on a cliffhanger....and longing for more of the story.

Rating:  10 / 10

U ~ Untamed

Untamed by A. G. Howard is the companion novel to the absolutely wonderful Splintered series.  It is partially a rather disturbing re-telling of Alice in Wonderland and I didn't expect to love this young adult series half as much as I actually did.

The first book, Splintered, was a bit of a trial for me, but the rest were much better.  If you can get past a bit of teen angst and love a little dark, twisted fantasy, I highly recommend this series!

April 23, 2017

T ~ The Deathlands

The Deathlands series is serial science fiction.  James Axler is a name used by the publisher and there have been several authors behind the books.  It's a look at a future of what Earth could become in the wake of nuclear war.  These books are the definition of dystopia.  They're full of guns, violence, sex and gore.  They show the best and the worst of humanity.  And they are usually just so darn much fun to read.

I've read a grand total of 119 of these books.  I have five more on my TBR list.  There are two more that I don't have yet.  Then, my 16-year love affair is over.  The publisher cancelled the series back in 2015.  I was devastated and wrote a farewell post.

I'm purposefully saving these last few books.  I can hardly stand to think that someday soon I'll be done with them forever.

April 21, 2017

S ~ Stewart

Mary Stewart wrote what is, to date, my very favorite King Arthur series.  I love the idea of the sword in the stone, the magician, and the round table.  I've read dozens of books about King Arthur and Merlin.  None of them compare to this set of five books.

The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment, The Wicked Day, and The Prince and the Pilgrim were all just wonderful.  I gave them rave reviews (and several perfect 10's).  They are the one set of books that I gave away that I wish I never had.  I will have to replace them one day.

I want to read them again.

April 20, 2017

R ~ Redwall

The Redwall series by Brian Jacques is a wonderful group of stories.  All twenty-two books are about a world filled with animals that talk.  They are fantasy books written for ages ten and up, but I read them all as an adult and loved them.

I wasn't blogging back then, so no reviews, but they are so worth the time!  I know that 22 books is quite an undertaking, but you won't regret giving these stories a try.

They are magical.

Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

Title:  Wolves of the Calla
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  709
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 5

"..Gilead has been dust in the wind for a thousand years."

Synopsis:  Roland Deschain and his "ka-tet" are bearing southeast through the forests of Mid-World, the almost timeless landscape that seems to stretch from the wreckage of civility that defined Roland's youth to the crimson chaos that seems the future's only promise.

In this long-awaited fifth novel in the saga, their path takes them to the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis, a tranquil valley community of farmers and ranchers on Mid-World's borderlands. Beyond the town, the rocky ground rises toward the hulking darkness of Thunderclap, the source of a terrible affliction that is slowly stealing the community's soul. One of the town's residents is Pere Callahan, a ruined priest who, like Susannah, Eddie, and Jake, passed through one of the portals that lead both into and out of Roland's world. As Father Callahan tells the "ka-tet" the astonishing story of what happened following his shamed departure from Maine in 1977, his connection to the Dark Tower becomes clear, as does the danger facing a single red rose in a vacant lot off Second Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

For Calla Bryn Sturgis, danger gathers in the east like a storm cloud. The Wolves of Thunderclap and their unspeakable depredation are coming. To resist them is to risk all, but these are odds the gunslingers are used to, and they can give the "Calla-folken" both courage and cunning. Their guns, however, will not be enough.

Review:  I had forgotten how exciting this book is.  It's an incredibly thrilling story and very sad in places.  It also leaves you in a bit of a cliff-hanger, so I've already started the next book.  I'd promised myself that I'd space these novels out throughout the year but, like Roland, I'm getting near to the Dark Tower and, really, I can't stop now.  This is especially true because I have only read this book once before.

I'd forgotten that Father Callahan (from Salem's Lot) had such an important role to play.  He came to Roland's world in 1983.  He becomes a part of the ka-tet and his story is eerily familiar to the rest of the group.  So many coincidences are beginning to happen.  It's obvious that the Tower is near.  Roland would call it ka and he'd be right.

Unlike the beginning books of the series, there wasn't much of a wait for the next novel so I didn't need to re-read it.  This and the last two books that follow it will hold many surprises for me, I'm sure of it, since I always find new things even in the ones I've read several times.

I can't wait.

Review:  10 / 10

April 19, 2017

Q ~ Quests

There's really nothing I love better than a great fantasy story, complete with knights, dragons and elves.  A great quest is usually required.  Whether it is for a ring or whether it is to defeat an evil creature, it doesn't matter to me.

I love the sweeping drama, romance and scares.  I love the fact that the fate of the whole, entire world rests with a few unlikely heroes.  I just love a good quest.

My favorite quests have been found in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson and The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, although The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan is a very close second.

April 18, 2017

P ~ The Passage

The Passage by Justin Cronin is a really great story.  It was recommended to me in the tiny, little library in Melrose, Florida.  That library had the most wonderful of things -- a rack of books you could take for free and keep.  You just had to bring books you were done with to trade for the books you took.

The librarian, who I can picture clearly in my mind but whose name I've forgotten in intervening years, saw that the books I brought and the books I took were almost all either Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror.  She loved The Passage and told me about it one day.  I'm so very glad she did.  It was wonderful and scary.

April 17, 2017

O ~ One Thing

The One Thing I love the most.  Yes, of course, I love books (and dogs, and games, and many other things).  But the thing I love best I love because of my books -- my bookshelves.  It's where all my old friends and my (hopefully) soon-to-be new friends hang out.

When I move, the bookshelf is last thing packed and the first thing unpacked.  I keep my books in alphabetical order by author and then by title.  I've used stacked milk crates.  I've had bookshelves built out of used cardboard boxes and tape which I considered a real triumph of ingenuity (see photo!).

Currently, I have what I would call a 'fancy shelf'.  I purchased it at Walmart and I put together myself with a screwdriver, a hammer, and some curse words.  Sure, the books are double-stacked but I always know where to find the next one I plan to read and, when you have as many books as I do, that's pretty important!

April 16, 2017

N ~ The Novice

The Novice by Trudi Canavan is the second book in the Black Magician trilogy.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  It was a new author to me.  I love fantasy, but know (unfortunately) that there is plenty of mediocre fantasy out there.

This series was really good.  It's easy to lose yourself in these stories.  I read this trilogy back in 2011 and it still sticks in my mind as a really wonderful set of books.  I gave them all a solid 8/10 or better.  

The Magicians' Guild (book 1) and The High Lord (book 3) are both equally memorable.  Give this series a try.  I can't imagine it will disappoint you.

April 14, 2017

M ~ McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey wrote dozens and dozens of books.  She is best known for her Dragonriders of Pern series, but she has written many other fascinating science fiction / fantasy novels.

I've read 47 of her novels and have another ten I haven't read yet.  There are a few more on my wish list.  After that, all that are left are her few novels involving cats, which I doubt I'll read.  Ms. McCaffrey passed away and there won't be any more.

Her son, Todd, is continuing her Dragonriders books and they are good, but he doesn't quite have his mother's talent.

I'm so glad that about 10 years ago, I wrote away for a bookplate hand-signed by Anne McCaffrey.  She sent me two.  They are treasures to me and I haven't put them in a book yet.  They are still in the envelope they came in, all the way from the Ireland.

April 13, 2017

L ~ Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, along with the other 8 books in the series, were some of my very favorites when I was young.  This picture looks exactly like my copy did (although mine was not in very good shape, having been read over and over by my much younger self).

I was also a great fan of the TV series based on these books starring Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon.

These stories were of a gentler and perhaps, in some ways, better time.  There were still unkind people and still things to be afraid of, but Pa and Ma were always there to take care of the family.  My set of books were given away or sold at a yard sale decades ago.  I'd like to find another set.  I believe I'd still be enchanted.  Definitely worth reading, even if you don't have children.

Trader by Charles de Lint

Title:  Trader
Author:  Charles de Lint
Pages:  464
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Series:  Newford, Book 5

Synopsis:  Max Trader is a luthier, a maker of guitars. Johnny Devlin is chronically unemployed. Trader is solitary, quiet, responsible. Devlin is a lady-killer, a drunk, a charming loser.

When they inexplicably awake in each other's bodies, Devlin gleefully moves into Trader's comfortable and stable existence, leaving Trader to pick up the pieces of a life he had no part in breaking.

Penniless, friendless, homeless, Trader begins a journey that will take him beyond the streets of Newford to an otherworld of dreams and spirits, where he must confront both the unscrupulous Devlin and his own deepest fears. This is a novel of identity, an adult coming-of-age story in which a man discovers his own hidden strengths with the aid of a strange and wonderful community of unexpected friends...and of a beautiful musician who is willing to follow him beyond the boundaries of the world.

Review:  There is a reason Mr. de Lint is called 'a master of urban fantasy'.  He is that and so much more.  He makes you believe, which is really pretty incredible.

This series is long and I love it.  It is one of those series that you can read a book and stop, then pick the next book up later and not be lost.  You cannot possibly forget the stories.  They are just thoroughly wonderful and scary and seem so very real.

This author is on my top five list of authors.  I can't give this book anything but perfect marks.  It read like a dream and left me wishing there were another 400 pages to read.

Rating:  10 / 10

April 12, 2017

K ~ King

Stephen King is one of the most prolific and well-loved authors ever.  I've read a whopping 62 books written by him.  Some of them were short story collections and some had more than one novel in them, so if I was to count stories...well, the number would be even higher.  This number also doesn't count the number of times I've re-read the same book because I loved it so much.  I have another half-dozen yet to read (which doesn't include the ones he's written that I don't have yet!).  And, he's not done.  Of this, I am sure.

From Carrie (1974) to Sleeping Beauties (2017), from The Stand to the Dark Tower series, this man has earned the title The King of Horror, although I think he's actually The King of Story-Telling myself.  So many of his books have been made into movies (or mini-series), it's incredible.

My favorite books remain the Dark Tower series (which I'm currently re-reading) and The Stand, which is also my favorite of his film adaptations, although the movie made from The Shining with Jack Nicholson and The Shawshank Redemption starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are very close seconds.

He is and has been for as long as I can remember the one person I'd like most to meet.

April 11, 2017

J ~ Jordan

Robert Jordan has written one of the better fantasy sagas out there.  His Wheel of Time series is just plain wonderful.  Swashbuckling adventure and a quest to save the world.  What more could you ask for?

Unfortunately Mr. Jordan died before finishing his epic.  He left behind copious notes and tape recordings, thankfully.  Another very fine author, Brandon Sanderson, took up where he left off and finished the story.

There are a total of 14 books (and 3 novellas, two of which I've skipped) in the set and none of the novels are short.  You could build a house with these books!  It's a huge investment of time, but so well worth it.  I have the last three waiting for me and I just can't wait until I finally find out how it all ends.

April 10, 2017

I ~ Intruder

The Foreigner series by C. J. Cherryh is one of the two science fiction series I consider 'keepers'.  Intruder is the 13th book and, while there are other books in this series that start with 'I', this is the only one that starts with 'I' that I've actually reviewed.  I lost most of my collection a few years ago and am trying to get them all back, but it's hard when there are currently 17 books and I only have six.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this saga.  Bren, Banichi, and Jago are such wonderful characters -- as are all of the characters in these books.  The world of the atevi is incredible.

My goal is to get all the books again and start from the very beginning... and review them all.  I know I will love them all as much as I did the first time around.

April 9, 2017

H ~ Harry Potter

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling and the movie franchise based on these young adult novels are among some of my very favorites.

I've read them all (twice!).  I've watched the movies twice through and probably will again.  They are magical, fun, exciting, scary and just so wonderful.

They may be considered young adult, but they are timeless and ageless.  I loved them.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Title:  The Storyteller
Author:  Jodi Picoult
Pages:  460
Genre:  Fiction

"Yes," she said.  "But see how much of me is left?"

Synopsis:  Sage Singer becomes friends with an old man who is particularly beloved in her community after they strike up a conversation at the bakery where she works. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. One day he asks Sage for a favor, to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses, but then he tells her he deserves to die. Once he reveals his secret, Sage wonders if he is right. Can someone who has committed a truly heinous act ever redeem themselves with good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you are not the party who was wronged? And most of all, if Sage even considers his request, is it murder, or justice? What do you do when evil lives next door?

Review:  There is so little I can say about this book without giving too much away.  So, I'll just say that Josef Weber did the most horrible thing imaginable.  Sage is stuck in a nightmare, trying to figure out what is right and wrong, now that she knows the truth.

I'll also say that Sage wasn't my favorite character.  I found her to be a little self-centered and dishonest.  Lou Stein, who she contacts to help with Josef, is a much better person.  But, Sage's grandmother, Minka, is the best character in the story by far.

As always, this author made me feel very deeply about the story and the subject matter.  Have a box of tissues and be ready to be upset if you decide to read this novel.

Rating:  9 / 10

April 7, 2017

G ~ Grisham

John Grisham.  I love his legal thrillers.  I've read every one I can get my hands on.  I've been reading his work for somewhere around 30 years now.  His novel A Time to Kill is one of my all-time favorite thrillers.  It was also made into a pretty spectacular movie, as were many of his novels.

If you love thrillers and haven't given Mr. Grisham a try, I can only tell you that you're missing out.  His novels about baseball and other topics aren't quite as good, but his legal thrillers are absolutely the best out there.

April 6, 2017

F ~ Fantastic Fiction

Fantastic Fiction is a website that is always first on my favorites.  Here, you can search by title and author, browse books, or find books similar to one you really liked.

It's my go-to place for finding out what books are in a series.  This is of ultimate importance because, assuming the series is complete, I won't start a series until I have all the books that belong with it.  I really do not like being left hanging.

If you love books, want to find out information on authors, or just find a new book to read, this website is a necessity.

April 5, 2017

E ~ Emprise, Enigma, and Empery

I found the Trigon Disunity trilogy by Michael Kube-McDowell at one of my many visits to the annual Friends of the Library book sale.  The descriptions promised a good science fiction story and, best of all, the titles all started with E.

Why was that so exciting?  

Every year, I used to try to fill in all the letters of the alphabet with author names and titles.  A few times, I tried to do the alphabet twice through.  One year, I managed to complete the alphabet four times (scroll down, it's there!).  I gave up the practice a couple of years ago because I had run out of some of the harder letters and, really, I couldn't keep getting more books when I already had so many.

To find three titles, all starting with E, just about made my day.  Finding out later that all three books were solid 10's... well, that was even better.

April 4, 2017

D ~ Dystopia

Last year, I learned something new.  There is a word that describes so many of the books I've read and will read.  Dystopia.  I learned about it from last year's Dystopia Reading Challenge at Cornerfolds.  I'm sure it's not a new word, but I didn't know it, even though I've read hundreds (literally) of books that fall squarely into that realm.  Think 1984, Logan's Run, One Second After, The City and the Stars, the entire Deathlands series and, well, you get the idea.

If asked, I would have called them post-apocalyptic or cautionary tales, but some of the books I've read didn't really fit in those categories even though they certainly portrayed a world that's almost unrecognizable.  I'm glad to know there's an actual word out there for the paths we all hope no world, including ours, takes.

April 3, 2017

C ~ Collectorz

Collectorz software is a godsend to anyone who collects books.  They also have versions that work for movies, albums, comics and games.  I've been using their book software since 2007.  It's easy to use and keeps track flawlessly.

There is no affiliate program and I've never seen any advertisements.  The product speaks for itself.  Thanks to their software, I know exactly what books I have, what books I want, and what books I have already read.  I know when I got a book, when I read a book, and what series it goes with.  You even get free web space so you can share your collection -- here's mine!!

I own the iPad, Android, and PC versions.  No matter where I am, my book collection is at my fingertips.  Priceless.

B ~ Books

I've been called 'that lady who's always reading'.  What is it that I love about books so much?

I answered part of that question in my A post, but here's another reason:  When I was a child, I spent a lot of time indoors.  I have allergies that include grass, trees, flowers, stinging insects, and many other things.

The internet wasn't even invented yet.  We had three channels on the black and white TV.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  Books educated and kept me company.

I'm not stuck indoors any more (thank you, Benadryl), but books...I love them still.  I love their smell, the way they feel when I hold them, how they take me away to a whole new place and time, how they give me new ideas to think about, and how the really good ones can make me laugh or cry.  My favorite characters are like family.

Books are right up there with food and water, at least to me.

April 2, 2017

Mount TBR Checkpoint #1

Well, I'm slowly climbing Mount Ararat.  I've read 11 books so far that count towards this challenge, which equals 3862 of the 16854 miles I have to go.  It's all uphill from here!

My favorite cover came from By the Light of the Moon by Dean Koontz.

Shep O'Conner, also from By the Light of the Moon, is simply the most fun, most unusual and most lovable character I've come across in a long time.  Yes, he's autistic and rarely speaks, but he steals the show!

I was surprised (and not in a good way) by The Witches of Eastwick.  I'd waited so very long to finally read the book that had been made into the movie starring Jack Nicholson and Cher.  Unfortunately, it was....well, just really awful and boring.

My word for the Scrabble is Gads!  (I wish I could do Gadzooks, but I'm missing that double O and the K!).  The word is made up of books I really liked!

G ~ The Gunslinger by Stephen King
A ~ The Awakening by Thomas K. Martin
D ~ Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
S ~ State of Fear by Michael Crichton

I'm still climbing.  I've got a Jodi Picoult novel coming up next and I can never put her books down!

April 1, 2017

Zombies and Other Unpleasant Things by William Bebb

Title:  Zombies and Other Unpleasant Things
Author:  William Bebb
Pages:  192
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  E-Book, 2013

Synopsis:  This is a collection of short, and some not so short, stories that involve the undead as well as a wide variety of very unpleasant things.

Some of the unpleasant things include mentally deranged psychotic clowns, someone being pushed from a very tall building, a giant six foot tall fluffy pink talking bunny that a man discovers in his kitchen at 2:47 in the morning, an elderly deranged man who believes he's a ninja, a vacation near Albuquerque that ends very tragically, and many other things.

Review:  I picked up this digital book for two reasons:  first, it had the story Southwestern Road Trip which is a sequel to Valley of Death, Zombie Trailer Park by this same author (which I read and enjoyed) and second, I do like scary stories.

Unfortunately, this book was not everything I expected.  The stories were okay.  The sequel kept my interest (mostly).  This author has no editing staff and it's obvious when you're reading sentences that make no sense whatsoever.

Still, it was free on Amazon, it was scary (and gross), and the story The Fall of Bayonne was actually quite good although, as the author says, it's more of a novella than a short story.  I think, perhaps, this author should stick to longer works.  His short stories just aren't really all that good.

Rating:  3.5 / 10

A ~ April Fools' Day

What in the world could April Fools' Day and books have in common?  I was born late in the afternoon on March 31st.  I was almost an April Fools' baby.  My mother read to me long after I could read for myself.  There were always books in our house and I had a library card of my own when I was very young.  I believe that these are the reasons why I love to read.

I remember my very first favorites still:  Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, and Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.

I turned 50 yesterday and I've always gotten a new book to enjoy either as a gift from my family or as a gift to myself....just in time for April Fools' Day.

March 29, 2017

End of the First Quarter 2017 Wrap-Up

I'd been trying to do monthly wrap-ups last year, but I just can't seem to get on schedule.  So, I'm going to try quarterly this year.  I'm a little early this time around, but I have plans this weekend.

I haven't finished any challenges -- yet!  I have visited 11 US states...well, 10 and Washington, DC which isn't a state but is on my list.  I've also visited 4 countries.  I've actually visited more than that, but I'm not counting places that are just stop-overs.  They have to be a real part of the story.

My favorite new-to-me book this time around is State of Fear by Michael Crichton.  My absolute favorite, however, was a re-read, The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King.  It would likely be my favorite under almost any imaginable circumstances.  2017 has been a great reading year so far!
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