Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: "Shadow, Shadow" by V.B. Marlowe

There’s probably never been a better time, or perhaps, a worse time for indie and self-published authors. On the one hand, it’s now easier than ever to see your story in print and promote it. On the other, that same ease has created a glut of books, most of them pretty bad, that may make people less likely to pick up an indie or self-published title.

I’m guilty myself of often dismissing books that don’t come from a big publisher because of past experience. Every now and then, though, something catches my eye and draws me in.

I’m not sure exactly what it was about V.B. Marlowe’s “Shadow, Shadow” ($11.99, All Night Reads) that drew my attention – probably a combination of the title, the cover and the description – but I’m glad it did.

Marlowe introduces us to the small town of Shadow Pines and four teenagers who, at first, seem very different – Harley, the misfit punk girl; Teaghan, the quiet mousy type; Brock, the most popular boy in school; and Gianna, the activist. All, though, share a birthday and receive a mysterious gift from the new novelty shop in town.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: "The Autumn Republic" by Brian McClellan

Field Marshal Tamas has fought his way through the Kez army and across inhospitable terrain to return to Adro after being caught behind enemy lines, but what he returns to is a country in chaos in “The Autumn Republic” ($26, Orbit), the final volume of Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy.

When Tamas returns to the capital city of Adopest, he finds it controlled by Brudanian troops, it’s once-magnificent temples smashed to rubble and the scheming Lord Claremonte facing off against Ricard Tumblar, a member of Tamas’ council, in the city’s first election. It's an election that his own coup set up, but it could now turn disastrous for his country.

Tamas has no time to set things right in Adopest, though. The Kez on Adro’s borders remain a larger threat than Claremonte, and in his absence he soon discovers that his troops have fallen into chaos and treachery.

If that’s not enough, his son, Taniel Two-Shot, was captured and tortured by the Kez god Kressimer, but escaped. He and his companion Ka-Poel, a savage magician, are now trapped in Kez territory. Tamas will need Taniel, and every friend and supporter that he has left, to save Adro.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: "Heir to the Jedi" by Kevin Hearne

I can’t remember the last time I read a Star Wars tie-in novel, but it must have been 10 or 12 years ago at least.

For a time in the mid-to-late 1990s, I was buying them regularly. I read Timothy Zahn’s incredible Thrawn Trilogy (don’t get me started Disney), and several of the series that came after that. But in the early ’00s, I drifted away from tie-ins altogether – Star Wars or otherwise.

So what draws me back in? Kevin Hearne.

I’ve loved Hearne’s Iron Druid series, and I thought “Heir to the Jedi” ($28, Del Rey) would be great fun. I also harbored hope that, with the obvious title nod to Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire,” it might be the beginning of something as strong.

The truth is, though, it’s kind of boring.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: "The Burning Land" by Victoria Strauss

When Victoria Strauss’ debut novel “The Arm of the Stone” came out, I was impressed.

I continued to enjoy her work through the sequel “Garden of the Stone” and the first book of her second series, “The Burning Land.” A recent re-release of “The Burning Land” ($7.99, Open Road Media) gave me the chance to revisit Strauss’ work.

“The Burning Land” opens on a world coming out of more than three quarters of a century of conflict between the religious Aratists and the atheist Caryaxists. The Aratists have regained control of the land and are going about the process of setting things back to their version of right.

Gyalo, a powerful and promising young Shaper, is chosen to lead an expedition across the Burning Land, a vast and inhospitable desert believed to be the resting place of the god Arata. Leaders of the church have heard rumors of Aratists who were banished into the desert by the Caryaxist regime, and their Dreamers have recently caught glimpses of what might be a community built by the surviving Aratists.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tribute: Sir Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)



When I was in high school and college, there were several really good used book stores in the area. They were a haven for me – a place where I could get a lot of books for not much cash and even trade in what I had for credit.

It was on a search through the shelves of one of my favorite haunts that I happened upon a slim volume by the title of “Sourcery.” It was likely the strange spelling of the word that first caught my attention. When I pulled it from the shelf, things got even stranger. The cover featured an inexplicable picture of a sort of addled looking wizard and an orangutan. For a buck, I couldn’t resist adding it to my stack. I just had to see what it was about.

That’s how my 25-year-long love affair with Sir Terry Pratchett began.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review: "The Warded Man" by Peter V. Brett

I’ve been meaning to read Peter V. Brett’s “The Warded Man” ($7.99, Del Rey) for years, but a recent deal on the electronic version of the book finally gave me a reason to get around to it. As usual, I’m sorry I waited.

“The Warded Man” introduces us to an interesting post-apocalyptic world where people hide in fear of corelings – demon-like elemental creatures who emerge from the earth at nightfall to terrorize and kill. The only protection from the creatures are the magical wards that, if created properly, can keep the demons out. It’s rumored that once there were offensive wards that allowed people to fight the creatures, but those have been lost – if the stories were even true to begin with.

Brett’s story focuses on three survivors, all from small villages. Arlen dreams of seeing the world as a Messenger, the brave travelers who dare the corelings and the open road to bring news and supplies to the outer villages. Those dreams turn darker in the wake of a demon attack on his village that reveals some awful truths about his life and the people around him.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: "As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride" by Cary Elwes and Joe Laydon

If you asked me to name my favorite movies of all time, “The Princess Bride” would certainly be in the Top 3, if not No. 1. So it should come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride” ($26, Touchstone), a memoir of the making of the movie by Westley himself, Cary Elwes, and Joe Laydon.

In the book, Elwes offers his thoughts on the movie and the popularity that it’s come to enjoy over the years despite its soft initial run in theaters, as well as some fantastic stories from his casting through a reunion of the surviving cast members 25 years later.

Scattered throughout Elwes’ remembrances are short notes from many of the film’s stars, as well as director Rob Reiner and producer Andrew Scheinman.