Thursday, January 19, 2017

Tell-Tale Thoughts: "Alone"

I thought it only fitting that I celebrate Edgar Allan Poe's birthday by sharing some thoughts on my favorite poem, not just by Poe, but by anyone.

By the time I was in junior high, I was pretty well familiar with most of Poe's work. I had several collections that touted themselves as "complete," including a leatherbound volume that was the pride of my bookshelf at the time. Still, every time I got an American literature textbook in school, I went immediately to Poe, hoping to find something new. Eventually, I did, and it was a piece that spoke to me like no other piece of poetry had before or has since.

"Alone" is, in equal parts, melancholic, majestic and sinister. It appealed to the weird teenager who discovered it, and though the weird adult I am now is quite a bit different than that kid, it still hits very close to home.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Review: "Paternus" by Dyrk Ashton

Why just play with one mythology, when you can play with them all? That’s the way Dyrk Ashton sees it in “Paternus,” a finalist in this year’s Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.

Fiona Patterson lives with her Uncle Edgar, an eccentric but kind man, and has a relatively normal teenage life. She has insecurities and love-life problems. She works as an intern at a local senior care center, where she seems to be the only person who can get through to an invalid named Peter. She’s managed to determine that he likes flowers and figs, and she’s been the only person at the facility able to get a smile out of him.

When she’s confronted by a menacing beggar in a freak rainstorm on her way to work one morning, she thinks it’s strange, but she has no idea just how strange things are about to get for her. She’s about to learn that nothing around her is what it seems.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

My favorite reads of 2016

This past year was a busy one for me, so I didn’t get to read nearly as many books as I would have liked. Such is life these days, though, for many people, so who am I to complain?

Of the books I did get to read, there were some fantastic selections. Some of my own reading prejudices were also challenged in 2016 (actually, beginning in late 2015), and you’ll see more self-pubbed authors than ever before on my list of favorite reads.

As I do every year, I want to remind anyone reading this that it is not a “best of 2016” list. I read far too few books to make such judgments, and a number of the books that you’ll find on the list were not released in 2016. It’s simply a list of the books that I most enjoyed this year, and though I’ll admit the first few are my favorites, there is no particular order after that, so don’t read in any “rankings” that aren’t there. If you asked me to rank them 10 times from 1 to 10, you’d probably end up with 10 completely different lists.

“The Shepherd’s Crown,” Terry Pratchett. Published May 16. I’ll admit that this is a very sentimental pick for my favorite read of the year, but it will be my last visit to a world that I’ve been a regular tourist in for more than a quarter of a century. I waited a long time after Pratchett’s death to read this, not wanting to say goodbye, but I decided the time had come about mid-year. It was a fitting farewell, and fitting also that one of his most beloved characters went out with the author and the Discworld.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Reader Picks: Your favorite posts of 2016

As the year winds down, I always like to take a look back on the books that I read, and also the posts that my readers most enjoyed.

This year brought a serious uptick in views for this blog, particularly in the latter half, and for that, I thank everyone who is reading this right now. It also brought a very interesting list of reader picks.

This year's most viewed posts were not necessarily the big-name authors, though a few made it in. I reviewed a lot more self-published works, and many of those got quite a bit of traffic. There are a few authors who made the list twice, and the top pick is the most viewed post on this site since I switched over to the blogger format around 2007.

So, without further ado, here are the reviews that you had the most interest in for 2016:

10. "The Daylight War," by Peter V. Brett. Published June 10. So, finally, I'm caught up with Brett's series having read this one and "The Skull Throne" this year. I'm waiting on the next volume just like everyone else.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Memory Lane: "Equal Rites" by Terry Pratchett

After some work and holiday delays, I continue to my return tour of the Discworld with Terry Pratchett’s third book of the series, “Equal Rites” ($9.99, Harper Collins).

A dying wizard comes to the tiny mountain village of Bad Ass to visit the local blacksmith, an eighth son who is, that very night, expecting his eighth son. It’s a magical number, and as soon as the child is born, the wizard passes his power on to it. Then, he discovers that it’s a girl, and he has accidentally unleashed the first female wizard on the Discworld.

Eskarina Smith grows up under the close eye of the witch who will become, arguably, the greatest power on Pratchett’s Disc, Esme Weatherwax. Granny’s hope is to turn Esk into a witch, but it soon becomes apparent that the wizard magic has hold of her.

To help the girl, Granny will have to leave her mountain home and travel to Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork, where they’ll face the daunting task of getting the all-boys club to admit a woman into their ranks.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Tell-Tale Thoughts: "The Black Cat"

Ah, a series that I started with best intentions that, like so many things the last few years, fell by the wayside. But rather than wall it up in some damp catacomb, I’m going to try to revive it, mainly because I really want to revisit these stories.

I’ll begin with a story that was one of my favorites in my first few years as a Poe worshipper – “The Black Cat.” On revisiting the story, it’s really no surprise how much I loved it back then. It bears a striking resemblance to my favorite tale, and the one that started me on the journey, “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Our narrator, a condemned man, tells a harrowing story of his descent into alcoholism and depravity, which changed him from a meek, easy-going animal lover to a murderous monster.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review: "Senlin Ascends" by Josiah Bancroft

I read a lot of good books and an occasional few great books, but rarely do I find something that’s truly remarkable in just about every way. That’s just what Josiah Bancroft’s “Senlin Ascends” delivers, though.

“Senlin” first came to my attention as a runner-up in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, but it’s grown quite a buzz of late with reviewers and other authors praising Bancroft’s work. And it’s most worthy of that praise.

The story begins with a small-town teacher, Thomas Senlin, headed off on a great adventure with his new wife Marya. Senlin has always been fascinated by the great Tower of Babel, which looms over the landscape of his world. It’s a massive structure with each level being its own kingdom, or ringdom, as they’re called. No one is sure how many there are, and each is full of wonders. Or so the handy guidebook that he’s studied tells him.