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 the fact that he pulls no punches makes 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.

ARE YOU SAYING THAT WE EXIST ONLY TO BE KILLED?
YES.  YOU ARE CATTLE.  YOU ARE PIGS.  YOU ARE WORTHLESS.

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
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