Today I’m reviewing We’re With the Band, a new novel by winner of the 2020 Nancy Pearl Award, Johanna Flynn. This book is a departure from the serious tone of her debut novel, Hidden Pictures, taking a hilarious look at renaissance fairs, bands and groupies, and the cultural importance of Ireland’s historical treasures.
Sunday, August 23, 2020
Larry’s Post-Rapture Pet-Sitting Service
By Ellen King Rice
· Publisher: Undergrowth Publishing (August 20, 2020)
· Publication Date: August 20, 2020
But First, the Blurb:
One man with highly flexible morals and a dodgy past.
His mother, in dire need of beer and pretzels.
A history-mad teenager in search of a job.
And cats. Lots of cats.
As the alleged man of the house, Larry has to make ends meet, one way or another.
Selling post-Rapture pet care insurance seems simple enough.
Until Larry crosses paths with a left-behind televangelist looking to carve a new domain. Out of his hide, if he lets her.
Review: “A large and colorful cast of characters fills the novel, and their experiences and coping mechanisms in the rapture-altered world give the story a welcome variety of perspectives.” – Kirkus Reviews
I’m still smiling about this book. Larry is the most perfectly imperfect man ever. Marjorie is a wonderful person, a little rough around the edges, but possessing a heart of gold. Every cloud has a silver lining, but sometimes you have to hustle to get there first. Marjorie excels at keeping her son hustling.
Larry is used to not flying first-class, so to speak, so he’s not surprised that he was left behind. He loves life and all the pickles he’d have missed had he been raptured or sent the other way.
I loved the notion that all the dogs went to Heaven.
Abigail Ross is a credible villain. The many snake-like ways she tries to thwart Larry's success kept me turning the page. I had to find out how everything was resolved.
Larry attracts a good posse. Every character in this group and their circumstances are unique, and yet they fit together, becoming stronger by virtue of their common situation: being left behind.
I laughed out loud, worried for Larry and his crew, and celebrated when certain animals were rescued.
If you like humor, dark or otherwise, and love character-driven books, this is one you should read.
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Saturday, June 1, 2019
Life is good for professional monster hunter Keltin Moore. His new beast hunting company is finding great success as he returns to distant Krendaria to protect its citizens from creatures of nightmare.
But when he receives word that the woman he loves is in trouble, he will leave the world that he knows behind and plunge headlong into dangers he has never faced before.
Somehow, he’ll have to sneak across a closed border, find his beloved and her family, and escort them all safely back out of the country. From dodging sadistic government agents to racing through beast-infested forests, will Keltin and his new friends survive their escape through Dangerous Territory?
Thursday, November 16, 2017
I am a great fan of Tad Williams' work, in all its many incarnations. The Witchwood Crown is his most recent release and is a fitting continuation of the original story featuring four great characters, Simon Snowlock, Miriamele, Binabik, and Jiriki.
But first, THE BLURB:
The Dragonbone Chair, the first volume of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, was published in hardcover in October 1988, launching the series that was to become one of the seminal works of modern epic fantasy. Many of today’s top-selling fantasy authors, from Patrick Rothfuss to George R. R. Martin to Christopher Paolini credit Tad with being the inspiration for their own series.
Now, twenty-four years after the conclusion of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad returns to his beloved universe and characters with The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the long-awaited sequel trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard.
More than thirty years have passed since the events of the earlier novels, and the world has reached a critical turning point once again. The realm is threatened by divisive forces, even as old allies are lost, and others are lured down darker paths. Perhaps most terrifying of all, the Norns—the long-vanquished elvish foe—are stirring once again, preparing to reclaim the mortal-ruled lands that once were theirs....
This book is not a light read. Tad Williams' work is brilliant and complex because he understands the character arc and the importance of agency and consequences. Change and growth or degeneration happen to each character over the course of the story—no one is allowed to stagnate. With a character-driven plot set in a fantasy world, the growth of the characters is the central theme. The events, shocking and yet unavoidable, are the means to enable that growth.
The story opens some thirty years after final passages of To Green Angel Tower. Many events have occurred in that time, leaving scars on those who have lived through them. Prince Josua and his family have vanished. The League of the Scroll is no longer what it was, death and age having taken most of the people who had the knowledge. Simon and Miriamele have lost a son to a deadly fever, and are deeply concerned about the behavior of Prince Morgan, their grandson and heir. They have reservations about their son’s widow and fear her influence has ruined him. They also fear for their very young granddaughter, Lillia.
There are other problems for Simon and Miri to contend with. Political unrest, lack of hospitality and rudeness by the King of Hernystir, trouble in Nabban, and rumors that the Norns are stirring. Simon, who has always been gifted (or cursed) with prophetic dreams, is no longer dreaming. A council is held, and it emerges that Binabik the troll also has concerns.
Prince Morgan is more than just a womanizing young noble, but he doesn’t know it. Jiriki and the Sithi will have a large part to play in Prince Morgan’s journey, as they did in his grandfather Simon’s journey to manhood. Whether or not Prince Morgan is the kind of man his grandfather is, remains to be seen.
The Witchwood Crown is an epic fantasy which will put some hoity toity literary purists off. It is literary, illuminating the internal lives of the many characters, and is centered upon how the perception that the king is dying has gendered plots and plans for coups among many factions. This lack of focus on one primary hero will put off the genre purists who need more noise and sixty-second sound bites in their literature. Those readers will find it difficult to follow the many threads.
Osten Ard is a place of contrasts. Dark, in many ways Gothic, negotiating the rough waters of this dark-age world is not easy. The three main cultures differ greatly from each other and are worlds of extremes. These contrasts drive the plot and frame the story in such a way the world of Osten Ard seems more real and tangible than this world. The room in which I read grows colder when the Norns breeze into the narrative.
In the years since the original publication of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad Williams has matured as an author. His prose is beautiful, almost poetic yet not going there. Harsh, lush, and carefully designed with layers of allegory and subtext, some readers will find the narrative too literary, difficult to read. Williams has a large vocabulary and sometimes takes the long way rather than dumping you into the fray immediately. He isn’t afraid to use compound sentences, which makes it an adult read. Other, more avid readers, like me, will devour it, savor it, and think about the deeper concepts long after closing the book on the final page.
I give this novel five stars for its complexity, maturity, and sheer originality. A powerful narrative, this book left a different kind of mark on me as a reader than the original series did. That series is young and brash, detailing the early days of kitchen boy who became king. A young and brash author wrote that first amazing series. This book is mature, not only because the author has matured in the craft but because the king is older—it shows us who that boy became, what kind of man he is, and offers us a glimpse of who might succeed him.
I look forward to the next chapter in this very large story.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
A poet and playwright, Dwight Okita’s debut novel, The Prospect of My Arrival, a finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, was one of the more absorbing sci fi novels I’ve ever read. So, I was quite intrigued when I saw he had a new novel out, The Hope Store.
But First, THE BLURB:
Two Asian American men, Luke and Kazu, discover a bold new procedure to import hope into the hopeless. They vow to open the world's first Hope Store. Their slogan: "We don't just instill hope. We install it." The media descend. Customer Jada Upshaw arrives at the store with a hidden agenda, but what happens next no one could have predicted. Meanwhile an activist group called The Natural Hopers emerges warning that hope installations are a risky, Frankenstein-like procedure and vow to shut down the store. Luke comes to care about Jada, and marvels at her Super-Responder status. But in dreams begin responsibilities, and unimaginable nightmares follow. If science can't save Jada, can she save herself -- or will she wind up as collateral damage?
Okita’s cerebral yet poetic prose is gentle and approachable, even when depicting the harsher realities of his worlds. Set in a Chicago of the future, the story opens with Jada Upshaw, an amazing, multidimensional character. A well-educated woman, Jada is, at the outset, intent on killing herself. Her despair and confused emotional state is laid bare, but shown with the delicacy and respect Okita brings to all his characters.
Luke Nagano describes himself as “a boy with a big heart but no idea where to put it.” This holds true through the entire novel, as Luke himself is the embodiment of hope. Of Japanese descent, Luke is a native of Chicago, and is deeply rooted in Midwestern American culture. He is deeply in love with Kazu Mori, a rock-star scientist from Tsukuba, Japan. Luke’s thoroughly American blundering through life causes him to make occasional missteps, inadvertent cross-cultural clashes which create tension. Kazu is forgiving, but is completely dedicated to his work. Their love/work relationship drives the plot, also creating tension.
The relationships and thoughts of both Jada and Luke are shown throughout the narrative, but Luke and Jada still have secrets from the reader, keeping me turning the pages.
Okita shows the actual science behind the Hope installation with masterful strokes. Instead of devolving into a drawn-out explanation that most readers would skip, he offers just enough information about the key elements, a framework for the reader to hang their imagination on.
Beyond the great characters and the futuristic setting is the deeper story. Hope, the lack of it, the desire for it, and the lengths we will go to acquire it is what drives this tale. Intrigues, private agendas, and in some cases, desperation drive the story to a satisfying, logical, yet still surprising, finish.
I highly recommend The Hope Store. I found it cerebral, sexy, and thought-provoking, as all Okita’s work is.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Today I am discussing Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative, a book on writing craft, written by Chuck Wendig. Or should I say a book on storytelling craft? Wendig is famous for having written the New York Times bestseller, Star Wars: Aftermath, as well as the Miriam Black thrillers, and numerous other bestselling novels. He has also written numerous books on writing craft.
But First, THE BLURB:
HOOK YOUR AUDIENCE WITH UNFORGETTABLE STORYTELLING
What do Luke Skywalker, John McClane, and a lonely dog on Ho‘okipa Beach have in common?
Simply put, we care about them.
Great storytelling is making readers care about your characters, the choices they make, and what happens to them. It’s making your audience feel the tension and emotion of a situation right alongside your protagonist. And to tell a damn fine story, you need to understand why and how that caring happens.
Using a mix of personal stories, pop fiction examples, and traditional storytelling terms, New York Timesbest-selling author Chuck Wendig will help you internalize the feel of powerful storytelling. In Damn Fine Story, you'll explore:
- Freytag's Pyramid for visualizing story structure - and when to break away from traditional storytelling forms
- Character relationships and interactions as the basis of every strong plot - no matter the form or genre
- Rising and falling tension that pulls the audience through to the climax and conclusion of the story
- Developing themes as a way to craft characters with depth
As a writing craft book junkie, I can’t walk past any book that purposes to discuss the dirty little habit of writing. Chuck Wendig is well-known for his pithy way of expressing things, but despite the in-your-face rawness of his delivery, he does know how to tell a great story, and he does it with outrageous hilarity.
This book takes the writer beyond the essentials of writing craft (grammar, sentence structure, etc.) and into the deeper elements of storytelling, rhythm, cadence, and breaking the rules adored by the more fascist writing-group gurus. He does this to encourage you to develop your own storytelling style.
I highly recommend it, if for nothing else, its sheer entertainment value. You’ll get your money back in the wildly sarcastic humor of the footnotes alone.