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Three New Reviews Up at SBR

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Folks, I’ve been busy reviewing books over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always).

On Friday, I reviewed Robert W. McChesney’s DIGITAL DISCONNECT and Alena Graedon’s THE WORD EXCHANGE. And just now, I reviewed Michael Z. Williamson’s FREEHOLD.

These reviews weren’t easy to write, which is one reason I delayed writing them until now.

Still, I hope you will enjoy them in the spirit intended.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 26, 2014 at 2:37 am

New Book Review is up at SBR for Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s Worthy “Spiral Path”

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Folks, as most of you know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, the past few weeks have been incredibly challenging. I had surgery two weeks ago, and while I’m slowly recovering, many things went by the wayside.

Including book reviews. Edits. Writing of any sort. And as of yet, I haven’t been medically cleared to resume performing on my musical instruments, either . . .

It’s because of this that I was sorely in need of constructive diversion. And as I’d been sent an ARC of the inestimable Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s third book in her ongoing Night Calls series several months ago, I did my best to first re-read the previous two books in this series (NIGHT CALLS and KINDRED RITES respectively), then read her newest, SPIRAL PATH, several times for good measure.

Along the way, the ARCs kept getting updated. Cover art was added. And the book was released earlier this week.

So even though I have other reviews pending at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always) that have been in the queue nearly as long as SPIRAL PATH, I didn’t hesitate to review Ms. Kimbriel’s newest book this evening. (Or, considering it’s 4:38 AM as I write this, maybe I should say “this morning” instead.)

Because it’s late (or early, depending on your mindset), I can’t recall right now if I’ve mentioned that I find Ms. Kimbriel’s books — all of them, but most particularly the Night Calls series — to be “comfort books.” That is, books that make you feel better about yourself, and about life in general; books that, no matter how terrible you feel, always help to cheer you up.

So I freely admit that I’ve read and re-read Ms. Kimbriel’s books many times since I first was introduced to her work in late 2012 with FIRES OF NUALA (reviewed in March of 2013 at SBR). Everything she writes is well-researched, has depth and purpose and feels like a real place with real and vital people doing really vital things . . . and it’s just as well that e-books don’t fray with age and use, or my advance reader copies of Ms. Kimbriel’s stories would’ve all frayed into disintegration by now.

Anyway, while I slowly take up my life again, and all of my various responsibilities, I’m very glad I was able to make some time to review SPIRAL PATH this evening/morning.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading my review as much as I enjoyed writing it, and that you’ll check out all of Ms. Kimbriel’s work without delay. (She’s having a sale right now on her first book in the Night Calls series, the not-so-coincidentally named NIGHT CALLS, if you’re interested . . . I know I picked up a spare copy, just to loan to other people later on, as I am not giving up my treasured ARCs for anything.)

———–

P.S. I wonder, sometimes, whether my late husband Michael got a chance to read any of Ms. Kimbriel’s work “the first time around” (that is, when her first five books were put out in the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s). I like to think so, because she’s exactly the type of author he’d have adored — and for much the same reasons as I do.

Just Reviewed Victoria Alexander’s Latest at SBR

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Just figured I’d drop a little blog-let here to let you all know that I reviewed Victoria Alexander’s latest Victorian Era romance, THE SCANDALOUS ADVENTURES OF THE SISTER OF THE BRIDE, over at Shiny Book Review late Saturday night. (Or at SBR for short, as always.)

But you want a capsule review, you say? Well, here it is . . . I loved the story, thought it was funny, enjoyed the characters . . .

But the editing was absolutely horrible. And as this is a big-budget book from a well-known publisher, that is just not acceptable.

I don’t have a clue what happened with this book, quite frankly. But as an editor myself, I know that if you have a twenty-five word sentence with zero commas in it, there’s usually something wrong.

And it’s doubly wrong for a Victorian Era romance, because if anything, those old fuddy-duddy Victorians were much bigger sticklers about proper punctuation than I am as a modern-day editor. And if you want to properly evoke the period, you need to observe all the regular conventions of said period.

But you say, “Who cares about the commas, Barb? Why are you obsessing about this, anyway? You’re a modern reader. You can deal . . . can’t you?”

Um, yes and no.

The lack of commas (thus the lack of proper punctuation), especially in long stretches of dialogue, kept throwing me out of the reader’s trance with great force. And as there is absolutely no excuse for the lack of proper punctuation for the three reasons I gave over at SBR, I docked the book a grade.

At any rate, go take a look at my review, and judge for yourself whether or not I’m making any sense this fine day.

Then come back and let me know. (I’ll be here.)

Just Reviewed Aaron Lazar’s “Spirit Me Away” at SBR

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Before I forget, I wanted to let my readers know that I just reviewed Aaron Lazar’s SPIRIT ME AWAY over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always), which is a new mystery in his long-running Gus LeGarde series. SPIRIT ME AWAY is set in 1969 and is a prequel to many of his mysteries featuring Gus.

In SPIRIT ME AWAY, Gus married his young bride, Elsbeth, a few months before the start of this novel; they’re music students living in Boston. When a young woman who’s lost her memory shows up nearby, they take her in and try to find out who she is. But there are some bad people out there who want her for nefarious purposes . . .it’s not a “cozy mystery” as are many in the LeGarde series, being rather a mystery with a great deal of romantic suspense. But it’s very, very good, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Also, I reviewed Aaron’s LADY BLUES over at SBR a couple of weeks ago. This, too, is a novel featuring Gus LeGarde, but is in the present-day and deals with the mystery of an old man in a nursing home who’s struggling to recover his memories with the aid of a new and experimental drug. But then the drug’s formulation is changed . . . slowly the old man loses his memories again. And then a friendly nurse goes missing, then the old man himself seemingly wanders away . . . Gus must get to the bottom of whatever is going on and, if possible, reunite the old man with his long-lost lover in the process before the man’s memories are gone for good.

I enjoyed LADY BLUES. It’s a warm, comforting mystery with a lot of musical ambiance and tons of food references. Gus and his family and friends are vital people who enjoy life and live it to the fullest, and they seem like people you know (or at least should know) . . . anyway, go take a gander at these reviews, and let me know what you think of ‘em.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 20, 2014 at 1:25 am

Two New Book Reviews up at SBR

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Folks, it’s been a busy weekend for me over at Shiny Book Review (SBR, as always).

On Friday night, I reviewed the tenth and final volume of Stephen R. Donaldson’s long-running series starring Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, THE LAST DARK.

And a few, short hours ago, I reviewed Veronica Roth’s ALLEGIANT, which is of course the final volume of her Divergent trilogy.

I hope you’ll enjoy the reviews, and let me know what you think, as per usual.

This week, I’ll be reviewing Cedar Sanderson’s TRICKSTER NOIR and Aaron Paul Lazar’s mysteries SPIRIT ME AWAY and LADY BLUES, the latter as a 2-for-1 special.

As for an ETA for these reviews, my normal reviewing days over at SBR are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (though sometimes, as today, I bleed over into Sunday. Bad me.) So do stay tuned…

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 8, 2014 at 5:06 am

Kendall and Kylie Jenner “Write” a Book — My Rant

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Folks, I just finished reading two sample chapters from REBELS: CITY OF INDRA: The Story of Lex and Livia, a book purportedly written by Kendall and Kylie Jenner. (Yes, they’re the sisters of Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian.)

Here’s my capsule review: It’s dreadful. (Take a look at these one-star reviews if you don’t believe me.)

Why?

There’s no plot. There’s nothing in the way of characterization. And the Jenner sisters didn’t even write it.

The only good thing about REBELS: CITY OF INDRA: The Story of Lex and Livia (and yes, it has all of those colons) is this: Two ghostwriters actually got paid to write this garbage.

As a writer of YA fiction (you may have heard of my novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, if you’ve ever been to my blog before), I am appalled that this pitiful excuse for a book is currently sitting at #353 paid in the Amazon store.

And the only reason it appears to be there is this: The Jenner sisters are the young half-sisters of Kim Kardashian, reality starlet. So when they said, “Hey, we want to write a book,” they immediately got a book contract.

Then, apparently, after they realized how hard writing is, they quite sensibly hired ghost writers — which actually makes good business sense, but doesn’t show much on the creative side of the ledger for either of the Jenner sisters.

And now, they’re making money hand over fist despite the many negative reviews, merely because of name recognition.

It’s enough to make me, a barely known author, cry.

What can you do to combat this sort of nonsense? It’s blindingly simple: read something else.

“But Barb!” you yell. “I don’t know what to read! Help me!” (With or without exclamation points, granted.)

Look. I know many writers, and have reviewed many, many, many better books than this one. Here are just a few in the YA category that I recommend, and why:

Stephanie Osborn’s StarSong is a fable about a young, spoiled girl who realizes she needs to grow up and start doing things for herself before she finds the man of her dreams. This is an excellent novella about a spiritual awakening and a nifty coming-of-age tale, all in one. It was written for pre-teens, but anyone eight or above should enjoy this fun little story of loss, romance and redemption.

Chris Nuttall’s latest, LESSONS IN ETIQUETTE, is the second story about Emily, a teenage girl from our world who’s been transported to a quasi-medieval world where she can do magic and is important…but is important as much for the technical innovations she introduces into this new world (the printing press, Arabic numbers, double-entry bookkeeping, etc.) as she is for her own prodigious magical gifts. It’s a well-paced, well-written book that will keep you turning the pages, and is possibly Chris’s best book to date.

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s NIGHT CALLS is the story of Alfreda Sorensson, who is a frontier girl with magic. Again, she does for herself, thank you, and spends her time productively by learning about herself and the world around her. This is one of the best books for teenage girls I’ve ever read.

Jason Cordova’s CORRUPTOR is about Tori, a teenager trapped in a virtual reality game environment. Tori’s ex-boyfriend causes trouble, while Tori’s widowed father tries to get her out of the simulation. It’s a fun, fast read with a lot of real-world implications.

Sarah A. Hoyt’s DARKSHIP THIEVES is about Athena, a girl on the cusp of adulthood who must find herself, fast. Her father is against her, so she flees as far away as she can and finds a whole different place than she’d ever imagined…she falls in love and marries, yes, but she does so on her terms and by showing how competent and intelligent she is at every turn.

Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill’s neo-Arthurian Shadow Grail series (LEGACIES, CONSPIRACIES, SACRIFICES and VICTORIES) features Spirit White, who loses her parents in an accident and only then finds out she has magic. But what type, and why? (And was it really an accident?) So she first has to find herself, learn her talents, and then save the world…

Folks, those are just a few of the many excellent books out there in the YA and/or pre-teen category. These are all writers who work hard at their craft, write excellent stories that make sense, with characters you will appreciate, and came up with plausible worlds in the bargain. I highly recommend all of these stories, and hope you will support these writers — real writers working really hard to give you really fine stories with real craftsmanship.

(Really.)

So, in short: Please do not support this newest effort by the Jenner sisters. They don’t need the money. They didn’t do the work. And they don’t deserve your patronage thereby.

But many other real writers do.

——–

Edited to add: I’ve started a Twitter campaign called #SupportARealWriter to get the word out about real writers who use real craftsmanship to create good, solid, honest books — really. If you see #SupportARealWriter at the end of something, please  support that writer and let people know their books are out, available, and are much, much better than the above book with the Jenner sisters’ name on it.

Just Reviewed Stephanie Osborn’s “A Case of Spontaneous Combustion” at SBR

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Folks, it’s Romance Saturday. And long-time readers of my blog know what that means . . .

Yes, it’s true. I reviewed another romance again at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always). This time, I reviewed Stephanie Osborn’s A CASE OF SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION, book 5 in her Displaced Detective series.

A quick after-action report for y’all:

I enjoyed Stephanie’s latest very, very much. I thought the romance was stellar, and I agreed that something like this could very easily happen (though I have to admit that I took all the high-tech devices for metaphors).

Why?

Well, without giving too much of the plot away, a miscommunication between newlyweds Sherlock Holmes and Skye Chadwick-Holmes has caused major trouble in both their personal and professional lives. And while the failure of high-tech devices to work as operated is part of it (though there is an operator behind this failure; further reviewer sayeth not), the biggest problem between them is one that any newlywed couple can have.

“What’s that?” you ask.

Simple: it’s the problem of expectations.

While Sherlock Holmes is a fictional example (in both Arthur Conan Doyle’s version and Stephanie Osborn’s), the fact of the matter is that most newlyweds don’t see one another as real, live human beings with real, live failings. Someone like Sherlock or Skye has fewer failings than the average person, but both of them still have failings.

Instead, most newlyweds wear rose-colored glasses and want to believe their spouses are the absolute best person who ever walked the face of the Earth (save, perhaps, for Jesus Christ Himself, or Gautama Buddha, or maybe Confucius).

This is both a strength and a weakness, and it can be exploited by someone malicious, as Sherlock and Skye found . . . but if you can get past this, and see your partner as a human being with flaws and challenges, just like every other human being, it deepens and broadens your love considerably.

Look. My husband Michael was the most wonderful person I have ever met, bar none. But he was still a human being. He had flaws. (Not many, but he had a few.)

Did we have a newlywed blow-up? Not one as bad as Skye’s and Sherlock’s, no. But we did have a couple of misunderstandings, mostly because we were learning how to live with one another, and sometimes even with the best of intentions, you’re not going to be able to communicate with one another.

(Yes. Even two writers cannot always communicate with each other. Go figure.)

We worked around that. We found what worked for us. And that’s why our marriage worked.

In short, we met each other as real, live human beings with real, live failings. So we entered into our marriage with a more realistic expectation — granted, it wasn’t a first marriage for either one of us, so that possibly made a difference as well. (I’d say “probably,” but who knows? Not me.)

That doesn’t mean you don’t think the other person is wonderful. Believe you me, I did — and I still do.

But it means you see him as human and mortal. Not as a demigod. And that allows you to meet him on a field of equality, where you both have something to bring to the table.

Anyway, that’s why I enjoyed A CASE OF SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION so much as a romance. (I already discussed the mystery and hard SF elements in-depth in my review, but figured the actual romantic elements warranted a wee bit more discussion.)

You will, too, if you love honest romance with heart between two intelligent, passionate, hard-working individuals; if you love Sherlock Holmes stories (as brought to the modern-day); if you love hard SF along with your romantic mysteries; or if you love just-plain-good writing.

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