Review: As You Wish

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes

Genre: Non-fiction

Rating: 5 stars

Cary is immediately disarming with his charm and humbleness. The entire story of how he was headhunted for the part of Westley, right to the end and describing his love of his fans, was amazing. There are snippets from the other people involved in the film, too. It all came together to make a highly enjoyable read, and I can’t recommend it enough for fans of The Princess Bride.

The only thing I found curiously lacking was much on his time with Robin. I’d heard before (and in this book) how Cary had been smitten with Robin from the start, but if you’re hoping for juicy details, you won’t find them here. Too much the gentleman to kiss and tell. (Although the section on the most perfect kiss was pretty great!)

There were parts of the book that had me laughing out loud, and I really need to watch the film again, knowing so many tantalizing details about it to keep an eye out for.

Have fun storming the castle reading the book!

Review: The Roundabout

The Roundabout, by Andy Goldman

Genre: Science fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

The last book in The Only City Left trilogy is out, and I snatched up a digital copy straight away! I’ve been following this series since it started, and couldn’t wait to dig in.

Allin, Tyena, and Tumble are back to try to save the Earth from the epic cliffhanger of the second book. With a fleet of warships in orbit, they have been given a week to turn in fugitives who have been hiding on Earth.

The Only City Left started out with just Allin’s point of view (POV), and The Fifth House added Tyena’s. This final installment adds Tumble. You might think three 1st person POV’s sounds like a lot, but each chapter clearly labelled whose head you were in, so there was no confusion. I was glad to see events through Tumble’s eyes, and I think knowing what all three of them were up to was good, since leaving out any one of them would have left a gaping hole in the reader’s understanding of events.

The pacing was excellent, as usual, with tons of action and intrigue. Nearly every scene ended with a cliffhanger, and I couldn’t wait to pick up my ereader for the ride to and from work to see what happened next. Usually I’ll alternate between reading and playing games on my phone, but ever since I started reading this one, it was all reading, all the time.

The only problem I had was that it was a long time since I read the first two books, so although I clearly remembered the main characters and major events, there were side characters I had no memory of. Even by the end of the book, I couldn’t place where they’d joined the story, and I think this will be a series that I’ll re-read. That’s rare for me, as I’m not a fast reader, but these books are worth it.

Goldman is definitely on my “must buy” list after finishing this series. I hope he comes back to these characters at some point!

If you’re looking for a new, complete series to read, I highly recommend this one.

Review: All These Shiny Worlds

All These Shiny Worlds anthology, edited by Jefferson Smith

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

Rating: 4-stars

Anthologies are tricky to rate, because there are good stories and there are not so good stories.

This anthology proclaims to include the best of the best indie authors… first the authors have to survive the 40 minute Immerse or Die challenge, then they have to do well on a full read through, then authors are asked if they would like to submit a short story to the anthology, then the stories are judged by a panel of three judges. Also, authors who get invited are given the chance to invite one other author. The anthology is free, with the idea that after showcasing their work in the anthology, readers will find new readers to follow. I really like that, and overall this anthology was quite good. That said, I didn’t like every single story, and I had low hopes after reading the first one…

1 First Man in the World – 2 stars – People who like traditional sci-fi might enjoy this, but for me it lacked any sense of humanity or struggle. Just a vague how-to terraform a planet. Not my cup of tea.

2 Three Demon Gambit – 4 stars – I enjoyed the twists and turns in this story, even though I didn’t like the protagonist, a student in a school of magic. Dealing with demons and rival students was interesting.

3 Rolling the Bones – 4 stars – disturbing use of necromancy, found it difficult to parse the characters at first, but once I figured out the king and wizard were two different people, it flowed well and I enjoyed following the protagonist through his difficult choices surrounding the morality of using necromancy to preserve the peace.

4 All the Way – 4 stars – A future where dying people can upload themselves to robots and work in space. Quite a human story, however, and I felt quite bad for the robot’s ex-wife.

5 Scales Fall – 4 stars – I’m not even sure if I fully understood this story, with how it jumped around in time, but I enjoyed it a lot. It all felt so familiar, possibly because I read a lot of ancient Egyptian stuff as a kid.

6 The Ant Tower – 5 stars – Here was a story I didn’t want to end. The shifting in time with each scene took some getting used to, but the story was excellent. By far my favorite up to this point. With plenty of twists and turns, this trek through the desert didn’t end the way I thought it would. I want to read more from this author.

7 Heft – 3 stars – I found this spy story with a twist rough at first, and I’m not sure I fully got the ending. I think I did, but the uncertainty left me feeling unsure how to rate this one. I was left with the feeling that there was something clever that happened, but it wasn’t explained enough for me to understand in its entirety. Maybe if I read it a second time, but it wasn’t a story I enjoyed enough to do that with. The philosophy behind it was some next-level stuff that isn’t too hard to imagine actually happening, though.

8 The First Acolyte of the Upshan Berental – 5 stars – A story of being true to yourself, even in the face of disapproving authority. I enjoyed the theme, and also want to see all the worlds.

9 Bronwen’s Dowry – 5 stars – This story of a poor shearer and his wife going to a gathering of pipers was genuinely moving. I loved this one.

10 The Spider and the Darkness – 5 stars – This fantasy tale involving an abused girl seeking to escape her lot in life was fantastic.

11 The Dowager’s Largesse – 5 stars – I already bought the next story in this series because I loved it so much. Who doesn’t love the sound of a cursed bounty hunter with a belligerent llama companion?

12 Theriac – 4 stars – A woman who sees demons (maybe? The way others brush off her concerns makes me wonder…) is confronted with the not so difficult decision of what to do about some half-demon children. As written, it’s 3 stars, except that it had me thinking about it afterwards, wondering what the truth of the matter is, so it got an extra star.

13 The Red Flame of Death – 3 stars – This story about a holy man hunting a demon was okay. The pacing and writing were fine, but in the end I didn’t really care how it ended, because the characters were flat.

14 The Blue Breeze – 4 stars – While certainly the most imaginative of the bunch, creating a rich and dangerous world, the elements of the plot felt quite familiar. A forbidden love story, mingled with the thought, “There’s always a bigger fish.”

15 The Rakam – no rating – First person present tense? Ugh. I have other things I want to read, and after struggling through the first paragraph I said, “Forget it.” I won’t count this one toward the average rating, because I couldn’t give it a fair chance.

Review: Black Market

Black Market, by Alexis Blakely

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4 stars

This is one of those stories you can just sit back and enjoy… let it wash over you. The pacing is quick, the read easy, with just a few missing/added words sprinkled throughout but no major errors jumping out of the page.

Alex finds herself in a mess again, investigating the murders of old men… but nothing is as it seems. There weren’t a lot of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, but the story was still entertaining. Teaming up with Chase, her best friend and thief, they need to call in some favours to try to figure out what’s going on. Be prepared to hear how a witch and a mage are different, repeatedly. And I don’t mean that you’ll learn a new facet of how they’re different, I mean you’ll hear how witches are slow and mages are fast several times throughout the course of the story, just in case you forgot.

I enjoyed the three sets of “villains” in the story. And I mean that I really hated one group, and the other two were sort of popcorn villains, so big and bad that they’re almost funny.

The end of the story was really worth reading the whole book for. Some mind-bending stuff goes on, and it’s satisfying. I will likely pick up the third book in the series.

 

There’s an announcement coming later this month, but I’m changing gears with the blog. It’ll be mostly reviews from here on out. If you would like me to review your book, please don’t send it to me. Just let me know about it and I’ll check it out. If it looks like something I’d be interested in (action, adventure, intrigue, fast paced, non-erotic/romance) then I’ll probably pick it up and give it a whirl. I don’t rate books that I can’t finish, because I don’t think it’s fair to judge a book I didn’t get through. If your book hasn’t seen an editor, odds are I won’t read it.

Review: The Road

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Genre: Post-apocalyptic
Rating: 4-stars
My aunt sent me a copy of The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, and I finally got around to cracking it open a couple weeks ago.
It… took me a bit to get into. I didn’t like the extremely slow start. The way he chose to write the dialogue isn’t to my taste. And everything was so bleak… something I’m not really in the mood for often anymore, given the current state of the world.
Yet I found myself getting drawn into the story of the man and his son. I found myself caring about these nameless characters, and wishing they could find SOME bright hope in a dying, scorched world.
And I cried at the end of it.
I think the father-child bond was what did it for me. I kept trying to imagine myself in such a dire situation, watching my own children slowly wasting away, and it hit me right in the amygdala. It’s a parent’s worst fear.
And I loved how gentle he was with his son, even as he taught him hard truths of the world, or his son figured them out for himself. He took ownership when things went wrong, and realized that when his son did something incorrect, it was his own fault for not double checking things, or teaching his son how to do it properly.
If you can get used to the style of the writing, the book will grab you and not let go until the very end. If you’re a dad who loves your child(ren) fiercely, this won’t be an easy book to read, but there are some great lessons in the darkness.

Review: Auckland Allies

Auckland Allies, by Mike Reeves-McMillan

Genre: Urban fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

Three low-powered magic users work together to uncover a conspiracy that threatens their way of life. The story is well written with a quick pace and enjoyable characters.

I like Sparx a lot… the non-toxic masculinity was refreshing to see. The banter between the characters was great, and there was a lot of action which always keeps me hooked to a story.

I will definitely continue on with this series, and recommend it highly!

Review: Crimson & Cream, by C.M. Skiera

Crimson & Cream, by C.M. Skiera

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

This one had been on my TBR list for a while, and I’m glad I got to it. The writing is excellent, pacing quick, and characters interesting.

You’re in Jetsam’s head throughout most of the story, an orphan who has banded with other orphans to survive in the sewers. At night they come out and take what they need to survive.

This story starts out looking like a simple happy-go-lucky tale with a young protagonist, but quickly turns to a life-and-death struggle. With powerful monsters, an irate lord, and tenacious bounty hunter in his way, Jetsam has to use every ounce of cunning and speed he possesses to avoid a grisly death.

The twist near the end didn’t surprise me, but that’s okay. The story was still fun enough that I enjoyed it from cover-to-cover. I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel!

Review: Weirdo Company volume 1 by Ben Guilfoy

Weirdo Company volume 1 by Ben Guilfoy

Genre: Modern day military fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

There are five short stories included in this collection, and they’re all a lot of fun! When it started out, it felt like your standard military story that dealt with stuff that was a little weird. But that weird got BIG AND CRAZY really fast! The stuff Weirdo Company deals with is amazing! I mean, the titles of the stories probably give that fact away… but actually following the characters through it all is something else.

I was hooked part way through the first story, with a line that I loved so much I had to make a meme for it…

And it felt like the stories were anticipating my questions, sometimes. I’d be reading, and thinking, “Hmmm, I wonder about X.” When that happened, it wasn’t long before the answer came. That built a lot of trust between me as a reader and the author early on, so I relaxed and enjoyed the stories more as the series continued.

The fifth story had a couple hiccups in it, with what I think was a missing word, and a couple words that I think were typos. I hadn’t noticed it enough to bother me in the other four stories, and I was enjoying it all so much by that point that it didn’t bug me too much.

I will definitely be checking out future volumes in this series, because this was a great read!

Review Double Header: Dragon, and Harry Potter 2

Dragon (The Emerald of Light), by Dan Watt

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2 stars

I picked up this book at Kitchener Comic Con because I talked to Watt and liked the sounds of a “Monty Python Medieval Spoof” type of story. My imagination automatically went to The Holy Grail, which is a movie I’ve loved since I was a kid.

This is not that.

It didn’t even really remind me of Monty Python much at all. There were a few “silly” moments, but they were done in such a way that I didn’t even crack a smile when I read them, never mind laugh. I found the pacing far too fast, to the point that time and distance had no meaning. Add to that errors in punctuation and word use, and I found myself not enjoying the story. Characters would get a scene at one point, and then later their name pops up again, and I couldn’t recall where I’d seen them. By the end I had little idea of what was even going on, and certainly wasn’t invested in any of the characters. And this wasn’t a long book… didn’t take me long to get through. Part of it might have been that the main character, Burnwood, was utterly terrible with names and didn’t care about anyone he met. But he’d change his mind at random about something that moments before he’d been passionate about, and it just left me with a feeling of, “Why did this scene exist?”


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by JK Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5-stars

It’s been about 3 years since I last read through the HP series, and now my son’s old enough that he asked to read them, and has been enjoying them immensely. This book doesn’t disappoint. As this was my third time through the book (the first time was so long ago it doesn’t count), I picked up on a lot of bread crumbs that Rowling put in place. It all weaves together quite well into an engaging story that both of my kids loved. After we were done my son walked up to me and squeaked, “Harry Potter has offered Dobby clothes!” So cute.

I know there are people who complain about Harry Potter books, but if they can capture the imagination of five year olds and get them interested in reading chapter books, I think they’re amazing.

Review: Gifts for the one who comes after

Gifts for the one who comes after, by Helen Marshall

Genre: Paranormal

Rating: 5 stars

Marshall has a way with words that makes the macabre and creepy beautiful. While it was a little harder to get into a couple of the later short stories in the collection that were 2nd person, and there was a story that I’m certain had a deeper meaning (I’m terrible at finding those), each and every story was written with graceful prose. Once I started reading, it pulled me along, demanding that I continue from story to story to see what happened next.

There were a couple stories that were difficult for me to read with themes of miscarriage.

I think my favourite story was the one that told you right from the start how the story would end, but encouraged you to read through, because reading the end of the story first wouldn’t make any sense. I followed Marshall’s instructions, and I understood exactly what she meant. And even with her telling the reader how it would end, I still found it surprising.

The variety of voices and locations was refreshing, and it was amazing how she could get me to want to know more about all the varied characters in the stories.

Well done, and highly recommended.