an odd collection of tales about learning to do the impossible

Posts tagged ‘book reviews’

Dragon’s Revenge

By the time I finished Dragon’s Revenge by C.J. Shane, I loved it.

The author attempts something difficult, and that always intrigues me. She mixes an almost abrupt telling of a modern day detective story with a lyrical, sometimes even meandering, historical document from a century earlier. At first the combination is jarring, but before long it sort of becomes hot and sour soup, or fried ice cream if you prefer. However you think of it, it works well and the rich tale she has woven from the two very different pieces captivated me.

Nearly half the book is a love story between two immigrants, one Italian and one Chinese. It’s told beautifully through the eyes of her young son, and it is both touching and believable. The prejudice shown to so many ethnicities will make you want to scream, and will possibly force you to take a hard look at some of today’s behavior, too. (At least I hope it will.)

The other piece of the story involves PI Letty Valdez helping a friend solve a murder that occurs in a university library. Of course the investigation quickly becomes far more complicated, with Letty in danger, a few tantalizing red herrings emerging, and a tie-in to the century-old love story. Ultimately, there is a satisfying ending with more than one unsavory sort getting what unsavory sorts deserve.

Letty Valdez is a wonderful character, as are most of the people who populate her life. In fact, one of my few criticisms is that perhaps too many of them are a little too wonderful. A tad more nuance and the occasional trace of a fault here and there, would probably have made the story stronger. Yet, I much prefer the direction Shane errs in to the other alternative: a story filled with alleged heroes no one can like or root for. I plan to download more Letty Valdez mysteries to my Kindle.

I readily admit that a reading experience is a combination of the skill of the writer, and the interests of the reader. Author Shane tells an interesting tale, and she tells it well. Her story also happens to intersect well with me. I’ve done a fair amount of research on immigration laws for my own writing and practically jumped out of my seat when I read about the Chinese exclusion act. I share the author’s apparent passion for social justice and her love of desert sunsets. And I practice qi gong (a relative of gong fu referred to often in the book.) So, while this is a novel I think anyone could enjoy; it is fair to disclose this is one book I could hardly have kept from appreciating.

Find the full post, with more information about the author and the blog tour this review was originally part of, at Dragon’s Revenge

Read the introduction to this series of reviews at Reviews: Giving Them

Justice Gone

Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr. is a powerful book. It is difficult to put down even when it is difficult to read.

I was most impressed by the author’s unflinching determination to tackle a complex and emotional topic. He does do without glossing over anything or anyone. The research is impressive, the pace is relentless, and so much of the book defies expectations and surprises the reader.

This novel tears into the problems facing vets returning from war, any war, and it offers no platitudes or easy solutions. Rather, it invites empathy for the many characters struggling to do their best. Even for those for whom Lombardi has little sympathy (members of the press, a DA striving to enhance his career) there is a sense that these people are merely playing their given role in society. The real evil, the real villain, is war itself, and the author doesn’t see an easy solution to that problem.

I did struggle with the gore. In fact, the violence at beginning almost kept me from reading on, but by the time I was halfway through I was so glad I hadn’t quit. The large cast of characters is daunting, and the changing points of view were sometimes difficult to follow, but otherwise this novel is nearly flawlessly executed.

While it is hardly an uplifting book, it’s not a depressing one either. There is nobility in the struggles of the various characters. The second half of the book, with its court room machinations, even has a little humor mixed in with its staccato-like legal proceedings. Finally, there is enough justice in the end to not leave the reader hopeless.

I like a book that teaches me things, and a book that lets me see the world through points of view I will never have. I like a book that makes me think. Justice Gone does all of these in a compelling way and I recommend it highly.

Find the full post, with more information about the author and the blog tour this review was originally part of, at Justice Gone.

Read the introduction to this series of reviews at Reviews: Giving Them

Reviews: Giving Them

I’ve been doing more book reviews lately. It’s a fun way to get out of my own head for a while, see what others are doing, and hopefully help other writers as well. We all want reviews.

I do try to be both gentle and positive. Writing a book is hard work, and putting together an interesting and cohesive novel is a real accomplishment. I find it amazing how many people manage to do this every day. Who says our society is becoming illiterate? Some days I wonder if more people are writing books than are reading them.

So, kudos to all authors. This is not an easy thing you have done!

I don’t have much respect for reviewers who make rude remarks to get a laugh, particularly those who don’t write books themselves. I’m inclined to encourage all sincere attempts at creativity — be it musicians, fine artists, or writers.

Writers have a particular handicap, though. It takes far longer to read a book than to listen to a song or study a sketch. The reader will be investing some serious time, even if they give up on the book. So, it is reasonable for a potential reader to want to know if this story is really worth the hours they will likely spend with it.

That means it is important to for a review to be honest. I never like everything about a book and I’m sure you don’t either. Yet Amazon is full of reviews that make almost every book ever published sound perfect. Come on. We all know that isn’t true. Who writes these things?

The function of a review is to help another reader decide if they should read this particular novel. The most helpful thing a reviewer can do is point out what they enjoyed most about the book and what gave them the most heartburn. There’s no reason not to do it with kindness, but it still needs to be done. A review entirely lacking in criticism isn’t a review, it’s an advertisement.

Disagree with any of the above? Feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to discuss it with you.

A series of posts on the seven books I’ve reviewed recently will follow . Please enjoy, and if any of them sound like your cup or tea, please check them out.

Road to Reality

I’m back to reviewing books, and last week I tackled my first non-fiction book, an autobiography of one of the originators of “Survivor.” This is how the review starts:

This book is not an angry tirade, or a plea for sympathy, and it could so easily have been either. Rather it is story of a woman struggling to maintain relationships with her own divorced parents, with the two sons she loves deeply, and with a man whose idea of marriage seems to have been to largely roll her into his tumultuous world, until he didn’t want her there any more.

The book has its high and its low points, but all in all I found it interesting. Read the full review at Road to Reality.

What makes it a romance novel?

So. Let’s be blunt. I think sex is wonderful. I agree love is the greatest thing in the universe. I like it when people live happily ever after, or at least I’m allowed to think they will. However, romantic love (in all its trials and tribulations) doesn’t carry a plot for me.

I like action, intrigue, and surprises. I enjoy puzzles, and profound thoughts. So why do I end up reading so many romance novels and then complaining about it in the reviews?

Read more about my frustration with romance writers at What makes it a romance novel?

Nice to be understood

I know I’ve loved books others don’t like, and missed the charm many found in popular books. Reading is an interaction between the author and the writer, and the two don’t always match up well, even when an intelligent reader comes across a well done story. We’re all different, right?

Read more about how refreshing it is to get a review from someone who happens to get you at Nice to be understood.

Review: The City and The City

Summary: I’m in awe of this book, and I like to think that I don’t awe easily. It has stuck with me since I finished it; the surest sign of an effective story. I give it a 4.8/5, the highest rating I’ve given since I started this decimal point thing.

Read more at Review: The City and The City.

Review: Little Computer People

Galen Surlak-Ramsey has written a book that is great fun to read, and certain to delight those with an understanding of computers. The overall tone of the book is fun, funny and self-deprecating. The narrator/main character has a shrewd self-awareness that keeps him from becoming obnoxious, even when he does outrageous things like compare himself to God.

Read my full review at Little Computer People

Our Own Kind of Porn

My average rating for women’s books is over a point lower than for those written by men (3 stars versus 4.25 out of five.) What is going on ? I’m a feminist! I’m a huge fan of women authors and a strong supporter of women anything! Am I secretly sexist? I took a closer look at the books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read the full post at Our Own Kind of Porn.

 

Review: Murder Gone Missing

Why am I reviewing a crime novel like Murder Gone Missing? Well, even though y1 is a fantasy, it is also a murder mystery, and I have a soft spot for zany crime novels with an unusual premise. Murder Gone Missing begins when the dead body disappears and turns into a clever and funny story, well built to entertain fans of light-hearted mysteries…

Read the full review at Review: Murder Gone Missing

Review: The Ancient Tripod of Peace

My Review Summary: This is a fun read that will keep you turning pages and have you googling Shakespeare and  Greek history… It’s full of ancient secrets hidden in plain sight and the reader is left wondering how much is true and how much has been made up to serve the plot. It’s a fun kind of confusion, and it kept me eagerly reading until the end.

Read more at Review: The Ancient Tripod of Peace. 

Review: Cloud Whispers

Sedona Hutton has written a well-constructed contemporary romance novel with interesting characters, complex subplots and a splash of metaphysical theory. This is a book that many will enjoy.

However, if you don’t like coffee, and I prepare you a well-made cup and then flavor it with French vanilla (which you love) you probably won’t like the beverage, no matter how well made it is or how much French vanilla I add. Right?

That’s the problem I have with this book.

Read my full review at Review: Cloud Whispers.

I love to be loved

The reason for writing that is hardest for me to admit? I write to be cool. To be admired. To be praised. I write for the little bump of status it sometimes gives me even while thinking I’m above such things and don’t care what others think of me. Because of course I do care, as we all do. What varies is how much we care, and how much we let it control our actions.

How is this working out for me? When it comes to writing, the highs are high, but the lows are plentiful. If I really was doing this for love and admiration I would be far better served adopting a puppy.

Read the entire post at I love to be loved.

(Read more about why I write at The Number One Reason I Write Books,  My Eye-opening Second Reason for Writing , I write because it’s cheaper than therapy, Nothing cool about modest ambitions, and Remember My Name.)#

Review of Empty Promises by James Jackson

Review summary: Having not read any of the earlier Seamus McCree books, I began this one feeling somewhat disconnected from the main character. The plot was interesting, but the emotion was lacking. However, as the story progressed, the protagonist and his family came into better focus, while the action kept moving. By half way through the book I was fully engaged and by the end of the book I was ready to describe it as both entertaining and thought provoking, both heartfelt and action-filled.

Read my full review at Review: Empty Promises

Some book reviews are trickier than others

“Because the sex scenes make up so much of the book, I feel I cannot give it a rating. Rather, I will commend the author for the things she did well, mentioned above, and recommend the book to those whose tastes in this regard are different from mine.”

It didn’t take long for my resolution to review a book a month on my various blogs to land me in hot water. First Impressions was billed as an M/M romance and the premise of the two men’s lives sounded interesting. It was. But clearly I was way out of touch on just how steamy romances get these days.  I was traveling internationally while reading the book, and actually afraid if anyone saw what I was carrying, I might get detained for bringing pornographic material into the country.

Luckily, I arrived back in the US without incident. Read my attempts to handle the review with grace at at Review: First Impressions

Review: The Three-Body Problem

I loved the unexpected ideas, the unusual perspective and the way it made me think about issues large and small. I have a fond spot for stories that give me insights into other parts of the world, and for characters who plausibly behave in ways I cannot imagine myself doing. This book has all that and more.

…. this particular passage from the author sticks with me:

But I cannot escape and leave behind reality, just like I cannot leave behind my shadow. Reality brands each of us with its indelible mark. Every era puts invisible shackles on those who have lived through it, and I can only dance in my chains.

Read my full review at Review: The Three-Body Problem.

Review: REALM OF THE DRAGON by Cici Cordelia

I chose this book because I enjoy fantasy, and shape-shifting dragons sounded like way too much fun to miss. It turned out to be more of a romance novel in a fantasy setting. However, it is a fun read (and the shape-shifting dragons were as good as I hoped.) Read my full review.

If you would like a review on my y1 blog:

I am interested reading speculative fiction of all sorts, including science fiction and fantasy. My protagonist in y1 is shape-shifting gay male, so I am predisposed to review stories featuring LGBT heroes (or others who find joy in life by being true to who they are in spite of obstacles) or stories featuring interesting shape shifters.

I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, pure romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review BDSM erotica or books about vampires or zombies.

If you would like to be considered for a review contact me at Zane (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

Review: Deep Sahara by Leslie Croxford

Deep Sahara Review: This is an impressive book, but not an easy read. If a reader is willing to make the effort to flow with this unusual story, I believe they will find themselves haunted by it, in the way only a fine novel can manage. I give it a 9/10.

See Review: Deep Sahara for all my thoughts and for more information about this book.

One of my resolutions for 2018 is to review more books on my x0 blog. For these reviews, I am interested reading speculative fiction of all sorts, including science fiction and fantasy. I have a fondness for metaphysical tales and particularly like stories with a strong female protagonist. I will consider novels of almost all types that relate to the general theme of world peace.

Read about my requirements for a review, and get my contact info.

Look up for a minute

Now that I’m taking a little break from writing while my new hero and her upcoming adventures develop in my head, I’m making an effort to reach out and reacquaint myself with that concept of interaction. I’m starting off by committing to review a book a month. That’s not a lot, but I hope it will be enough to keep that outward focus alive.

Opportunities to review books are endless, so it is hard to know where to start. I turned to Goddess Fish Promotions, the PR site that has done a fine job of handling the blog tour for my own book’s release. I picked the first book that intrigued me and signed up to do a review.

See my thoughts about Deep Sahara by Leslie Croxford on February 7 on my blog Face Painting for World Peace. Read more about my plan to review a book a month at Look up for a minute.

Am I writing sexist science fiction?

daxI’ve been a feminist since I was a teenager; longer than that if you consider wanting to be the chief science officer on the star ship Enterprise as a sign of early feminism. And yet, like other like-minded authors of speculative fiction, I struggle with feminism in my writing.

Read the entire post at Am I writing sexist science fiction?

Safety in Science Fiction

how-to-live-safely-coverTaking the time to read Charles Yu’s “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” was a special treat for me. If I let myself read science fiction at all these days, it is flash fiction; something that won’t stick in my head while I try to finish my own science fiction novel. But I was at a retreat for three days, without computer, internet or television, and it was dark before six p.m. What was I to do? So I took peak into Minor Universe 31 and became trapped for many enjoyable hours.

Read the full review on my z2 blog at Safety in Science Fiction.

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A way to wish you joy and peace in 2017

sunriseI woke up to this sunrise today,  a reminder that every day brings us a fresh chance to embrace, improve and enjoy this wonderful gift we call life.

It’s been a tough couple of months for me, and for others who want to encourage tolerance and empathy. I’m looking for positive ways to deal with my concerns about the direction in which my country is headed, and I hope that you are too. Lucky for me, my sister, who is full of good ideas, had a suggestion for me.

With her encouragement, I reviewed, edited and sorted through the 159 posts on my x0 blog and put the best of them into a new book called “Face Painting for World Peace.” This short (121 page) volume of essays attempts to be both humorous and thought provoking as it examines what I like to call “intra-species harmony” (aka world peace) from a wide variety of angles. Three of my favorites are One Person’s Tourist Destination is Another Person’s Home, My Imaginary Prison Time, and My iPod Works as a Fortune Cookie.

This new eBook is available on Amazon for the least I am allowed to charge (ninety-nine cents), and is similarly available at Barnes and Noble, on Smashwords, and at the iTunes store where it can be found as an iBook by searching on Sherrie Cronin. This is not intended to be a money making project; I have pledged to donate half of all proceeds to “Doctors Without Borders”.

Here is the description:

I am passionate about the cause of the world peace. From early 2012 on I have maintained a blog in which I often write about empathy and peace. I have arranged these short essays in book form, to be published for Christmas 2016. A lot has changed in the world over the past four years, but what has not changed is how I continue to cherish time with those I love, and how others do the same throughout the world. This book is my holiday card; my way of wishing hope, joy and peace to every human on earth, with no exceptions.

Please download, please enjoy, and please share with others. Meanwhile, I will try to wake up every day during this coming year, catch a glimpse of that beautiful dawn, and then seek out positive ways to add my voice to the chorus still being sung by those who believe that kindness should guide our politics, our words and our actions. I invite you to sing along, too.

(You can read the orignal post announcing the book on my x0 blog.)

“Everest” and “Into Thin Air” and armchair mountaineering

everestI am fascinated by mountain climbing, even though I have never done more than hike to the top of a mountain with a good trail. You can’t pack everything that intrigues you into one life, and this is something that didn’t make it into mine. So when I had the chance to climb a major peak in the Himalayas, in my imagination, along side my character Haley, I welcomed it and relished the research that went with it.

Read the entire post on my c3 blog at “Everest” and “Into Thin Air” and armchair mountaineering

All the empathy in the world won’t help?

(1) I write fiction about telepaths and examine whether the increased empathy from knowing others thoughts could be a key to world peace. (2) I like Rachel Maddox a lot and occasionally watch her show.

driftI read Rachel Maddow’s new book “Drift” because of the second item, but was surprised when I discovered that her central thesis casts doubt on the whole theory of my book x0.

Read the entire post and my book review of “Drift” at All the empathy in the world won’t help?

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