Tag Archives: graphic novels

Planet Of The Eggs: Mummified Egg

As is often the case, I received book free in exchange for a review. Despite that kindness I’m utterly candid below.

First of all, spoiler alert. The heroes are spat out of a mysterious vortex, find and nearly defeat a mummy though rather mysterious and nonsensical plot points and then get sucked into another vortex. That about sums it up.

To the positive, the author is wonderfully unfettered by the bounds of conventionality. Further, the illustrations are rich and colorful. I say illustrations, they appear to be photos cut out and arranged over each other to create the graphical components.

To the negative, my 10-year-old daughter looked at it and refused to have anything to do with it. Given that the target age range is 8-18 this seems a pretty grim condemnation. If I had paid money for this I would be pretty annoyed. The plot is weak and essentially follows the same lines as a few hundred identical books including the previous two. The particular details of the plot are bizarrely confusing as the eggs travel without legs and obtain whatever items happen to be needed out of nowhere. I understand that it’s intended to be a children’s book but even children need connected series of events to make sense of the action.

To sum up, my kids were EXTREMELY unimpressed. It’s obvious the authors have put a great deal of work into this book but it seems that the execution is almost rushed and never quite came together.


Rob Slaven
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Planet Of The Eggs: Grimoire: Book of Spells by Peggy Bechko

As is often the case, I received book free in exchange for a review. Despite that kindness I’m utterly candid below.

First of all, spoiler alert. The heroes are spat out of a mysterious vortex, find and defeat a witch though rather mysterious and nonsensical plot points and then get sucked into another vortex. That about sums it up.

To the positive, the author is wonderfully unfettered by the bounds of conventionality. Further, the illustrations are rich and colorful. I say illustrations, they appear to be photos cut out and arranged over each other to create the graphical components.

To the negative, my 10-year-old daughter looked at it and refused to have anything to do with it. Given that the target age range is 8-18 this seems a pretty grim condemnation. If I had paid money for this I would be pretty annoyed. The plot is weak and essentially follows the same lines as a few hundred identical books. The particular details of the plot are bizarrely confusing as the eggs travel without legs and obtain whatever items happen to be needed out of nowhere. I understand that it’s intended to be a children’s book but even children need connected series of events to make sense of the action.

To sum up, my kids were EXTREMELY unimpressed. It’s obvious the authors have put a great deal of work into this book but it seems that the execution is almost rushed and never quite came together.


Rob Slaven
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Planet Of The Eggs: Cracked Open by Peggy Bechko

As is often the case, I received book free in exchange for a review. Despite that kindness I’m utterly candid below.

First of all, spoiler alert. I’m going to tell you the whole story in this opening paragraph. Don’t worry, it won’t be long. A mysterious vortex opens and the eggs are laid. The eggs make their way to ‘Tree City’, gain weapons (which they haven’t any hands to use), kill a snake and arrive at Tree City. Then they are sucked into another mysterious vortex. The End. Well, it’s continued in the next book, of course.

To the positive, the author is wonderfully unfettered by the bounds of conventionality. Further, the illustrations are rich and colorful. I say illustrations, they appear to be photos cut out and arranged over each other to create the graphical components.

To the negative, my 10-year-old daughter looked at it and said, “whhhhhhaaaat?” and refused to have anything more to do with it. Given that the target age range is 8-18 this seems a pretty grim condemnation. If I had paid money for this I would be pretty annoyed. The story is nearly non-existent and what story there is makes little to no sense. Maybe this is supposed to be a farce of some sort but based on the description I don’t think so. Even if it is, it still won’t scrape this book off the bottom of the barrel.

To sum up, my kids were EXTREMELY unimpressed. I’m personally failing to see what anyone else sees in it. Perhaps the next two books (which I have up next on my pile) will be more satisfying. This book just left me very glad I hadn’t paid anything for it.


Rob Slaven
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The week in book reviews for 5/31

It is sometimes mind-boggling to look back on a week and realize how much bookage I’ve ploughed through in the past week. So without further ado, I give you the lucky 13


BodiesBodies by Si Spencer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This graphic novel is a multi-threaded time travel murder mystery of sorts. It has many mythological aspects and delves into the ideas of secret societies, ancient texts and even manages to rope in bog bodies. The narrative is exceptionally complex and at times, honestly, is beyond total comprehension. I was able to unravel the overarching concept of the book but many of the details simply escaped me completely.

To the positive, the book does touch on some interesting concepts and its use of language is a joy. I found myself heading to the dictionary quite a few times and there are dozens of wonderful period English colloquialisms. The artwork is solid, sometimes shocking and exceptionally adult. This is not a novel for the kiddos of any age. There is much sexual congress, drinking of blood (straight from the proverbial ‘tap’) and outright murder.

To the negative, as I said, I just couldn’t quite tease out all the meaning in the various storylines. I know generally what happened and the storyline is reasonably satisfying but there are so many loose ends in my head that I think it would take a couple more readings to properly sort out. The text isn’t terribly dense it’s just that there are so many threads and there is little visual difference between some characters to properly tell them apart. Adding to that the rapid switches between timelines make it difficult to know not only who is acting but also when they are in time and where they are. It is certainly a bit of a puzzle.

In summary, for intense fans of the genre, this is probably a winner but for me as a more casual fan this blew my head apart. It’s graphic, innovative and complex but maybe a bit too complex for my addled mind.


When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super BowlWhen It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl by by Harvey Frommer (Author), Frank Gifford (Foreword)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book covers, in epic detail and from the view of the person’s involved, the first Super Bowl, though it wasn’t strictly speaking called that at the time. About 80% of the text is quotation from the people involved with the events described (or their children) including but not limited to Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford, Lamar Hunt Jr, Hank Stram, Susan Lombardi, Len Dawson and Bart Starr.

On the positive side, the book’s level of detail is dizzying. This single event in sports history is covered at a depth which is unprecedented. The story takes you from the childhoods of the two battling coaches and winds its way to the fallout after the game and a ‘where are they now’ of the players on both sides of the ball. The coverage of the game composes only about 20-25% of the book but you get keen psychological insight on both the winners and the losers.

To the negative side, the book is primarily quotation and most of those seem to be verbatim transcripts of video conversations about the game. As such they can tend to be a bit rambling and not as concise or on-point as they could be. Also, while the detail is wonderful it can at times be overwhelming with so many names and places whizzing by it’s hard to keep a firm grip on all of them at one time.

In summary, this book smells like someone’s doctoral dissertation on the game. It is extremely well researched and masterfully detailed and sometimes almost TOO detailed. This is a great reference tool and good for the expert in football history but as a casual fan I was at times overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. A great book but you’ve got to be committed to take it pretty seriously and give it your utmost attention.


Excellence in Forgiving & ToleranceExcellence in Forgiving & Tolerance by Tanveer Ahmed

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is a very short book so I’m just going to make a few notes as I go through. Take them for what you will.

* Formatting in the web reader is VERY poor. Almost to the point of unreadability.
* The text is composed of 13 very short phrases or passages which illustrate the point of the book. In total the book is about 3 and a half pages in the cloud reader’s view of things.
* Text is littered with citations such as (Musnad Imam Ahmad, pp. 71, vol. 7, hadis 19264) and every mention of the prophet has a… benediction in curly braces like so: {peace be upon him}. This can get very distracting.
* The subject matter itself is very true and basically boils down to what Christians would term “love your enemy” and general forgiveness. These are extremely positive messages but most readers will have a hard time teasing them out of the text of this book.

In summary, I think it has a great message and one that many could appreciate but it needs a LOT of work to reach a wider audience if that is the intent.


Nesselorette: The BookNesselorette: The Book by Clem Maddox

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Thematically, this book is a mixed bag. You’ve got voodoo and witchcraft somehow bound up in an ancient hunt for treasure that can only be revealed by one person because of their mystical bloodline. Enough said probably to avoid spoilers.

On the positive side, the book does have some very, VERY brief interesting moments. With enough work you could craft this into a passable novella but it would be a fairly cliche one. There are some amusing tidbits about Louisiana swamp culture but I’m giving the book the benefit of the doubt in assuming that they have some vague basis in truth.

To the negative side…. where do I begin. Firstly, the story, by the time you get to the end, is just an impossible mess and is a Frankenstein monster of old tired premises all bundled together in a completely untenable manner. You start out right away with the foundling on the doorstep of the hospital and from there you wind your way into the mysterious family history motif. This sort of thing isn’t entertaining even when done properly. Connecting all these narrative bits together you have long strings of impossible situations most notably involving Child Protective Services. My fiancee and I laughed at length at how profoundly misrepresented those sections were.

Further, the writing is clumsy and unprofessional. The author uses bizarre turns of phrase and melodramatic lines that don’t fit with the total mood of the book. Some of my favorites include:

“she tried desperately to lift the heavy phone book”
“falling into a deep subconscious sleep”
“I have heard so much about Cajun food and the spiciness of its flavor”
“your brilliant hereditary genes”
“That idiot of a b-tch”

I wondered many times if the author’s first language might be something other than English. Add to this the fact that the dialog is wooden and implausible and I’m sad to say the book unravels into a complete mess. It’s rare that I am called upon to review a book that has so little to recommend it to readers.


Kalki Evian: The Ring of KhaoripheaKalki Evian: The Ring of Khaoriphea by Malay Upadhyay

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Firstly, it must be stated that I could not bring myself to finish this book. After 100 pages I had to tap out and move on to something else. From what I did read the narrative is a two-threaded story of a man who wakes from a 23-year coma to find himself in a strange new futuristic world. The other thread of narrative seems to take place in the same timeframe but it’s not clear to me how they’re connected. In it a woman escapes an abusive husband to find a caring protector. Again, I’m not sure how these two threads are connected and clearly they will be later in the book but I just couldn’t make it.

To the positive side, the book does have an intriguing story. The setting the author has chosen is one of those impossibly bright futures but that has a not-yet-revealed dark side to it. I’m a big fan of not-yet-revealed dark sides. There’s goodness at the core of this book but…

To the negative side, the writing is abominably perplexing. I found myself understanding about half of what was trying to be conveyed (at least I THINK I did) but was constantly bamboozled by the use of language. It is filled with unintentional malapropisms, awkward phrasing and at times descends into utter nonsense. A random sampling that I noted:

“…Kanha lay submerged in thoughts and simple set of metals stocked in a separate room…”
“…her lips reduced to faint shiver instead of the lush they were born to revel in…”
“Quin lied down and shut his eyes. Sleep dawned abnormally quickly…”
“She was there to attend to a splurge of curiosities he bore in his heart…”
“So we were forced to transcend our mental fixations with vertical growth.”

In summary, there is a good story here but it’s hopelessly bogged down by exceptionally poor writing. Writing so poor that I can’t even be entirely sure what the book is trying to tell me. It needs to be thoroughly scrubbed up and redone I’m afraid but there is a solid start at an idea here.


Ray RyanRay Ryan by Aiden Riley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The two-second summary of this is that it is essentially a biographical sketch of the main character from childhood through early adulthood. Each chapter section is a year starting with 1994 and extending to 2022. During this time he deals with an abusive father, the standard childhood enemies and drug-dealing thugs. The story isn’t terribly original and one wonders if on some level it’s not an embellished autobiography but I have no basis for that proposition except that the author is from the same town as his protagonist.

To the positive, the author has laid out in great detail a life in Nottingham. It feels very much like a life that could have been lived by a real person… at least the first bit. The characters are vividly rendered and the reader can certainly sympathize with their situations.

To the negative, realism is all well and good unless the story becomes painfully bogged down by it. The text is full of what seems to be irrelevant detail that doesn’t really add to the story but instead distracts from it. The story does eventually pick up but by the time it did I was just tired of reading every intricate tidbit of the hero’s life. Further, the author’s writing style is passable but it seems to be comprised largely of “Yoda speak” in which verb and subject switched they are. This is tolerable but does eventually become rather a painful distraction.

In summary, I don’t really have a target audience that I would suggest this to except those who themselves have lived in this area and feel share they a parallel history. It feels to me as if the author didn’t quite know what it was he wanted to write and instead just kept writing and writing and writing until something that seemed completely cooked came out on the other side. As it turns out, he seems to have written himself two books: one an episode of “The Wonder Years” and another an Episode of “CSI London”


Pumice Seed (Tullman #1)Pumice Seed by Patrick Stoves

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The nutshell summary on this book is…. Well, honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I could not get past page 10. The book suffers so horribly from typographical problems and just downright poor writing that I can’t make heads nor tails of it. Since I received it as an ePub I was able to copy and paste some direct quotes from it.

“A facet drew chilled water.”

“As I closed off all trace on the automations a scythe swing in my mind caught me unaware forcing me to open those blood red eyes again.”

“Lucidity wanders over to the feather.”

“Clouds dance the sky and fall onto a far away landscape alike.”

“Over the horizon once again the gas guzzling miasma makes its debut. A caught up wind buffets the car as I compensate with an oversteer to the right around a mountain incline. The precipice blocks any oncoming drag from my path. Slight relief at the perceived change I relieve my grip from the wheel tired of fighting with it.”

These are direct quotes copied from the text of the book. I hope fervently that this is an erroneous copy of some sort. It seems to be missing about 80% of the apostrophes and most question marks and the text reads more like a haiku than it does a novel. Perhaps this is some sort of literary device that I’m just not quite smart enough to figure out?


The Book of StoneThe Book of Stone by Jonathan Papernick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The nutshell view on this is that it’s a complex character development novel that traces the evolution of a son after the death of his emotionally estranged father. The book describes itself as incendiary but I would call it more of a slow, methodical burn. It brings to the fore some very controversial ideas.
To the positive, the author has brilliantly portrayed the psychology of a young man in mental crisis. The protagonist demonstrates so many traits that could be pulled straight from the DSM and it is delightful and head-nod inducing as he manages to project his own needs on the facts of a situation. As a reader you never QUITE are sure which ideas are real and which ones are just Stone’s warped imaginings. The author’s ending too, which is all of about 10 pages and hits you like a ton of matzah, leaves you nodding your head as all those long-held suspicions turn out to be justified. It’s a wonderful conclusion to an exceptionally complex novel.

To the positive, the story centers on a very contentious topic, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. At times the book goes on a length about the rightness of one side over the other and it does seem almost preachy. I realize this must be included to demonstrate the motivation of the protagonist but it can sometimes be rather wearisome. In that general vein, the narrative is a rather long one. It’s not a punch-filled action novel but rather a bit of a plod at times.

In summary, I enjoyed this book both much more and much less than I expected to. Its depths from a character development standpoint are profound. From an action/plot standpoint it’s fairly middle of the road. If you like epic battles that are waged between the ears then I think you’re well served with this book. Everything else is just backdrop to that conflict in one man’s mind.<


Robert Heinlein's Citizen of the GalaxyRobert Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Lazaro

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The nutshell on this book is essentially that a poor slave boy rises to become “not a slave” and in the end makes good. I won’t say exactly how good he makes it but suffice to say that it turns out to be good enough.

The positive side of this little novel is that it has a good moral thread which essentially boils down to “Slavery is bad, M’kay” as Mr. Mackey might say. Any reader will get the overarching point easily enough.

To the negative, the whole thing is vastly oversimplified. I realize that the novel on which it’s based is juvenile literature but this graphic novel is too low-brow from the artwork to the dialog and overall structure. Worse than that, the ultimate conclusion, which is essentially a boardroom proxy vote showdown, is completely over the head of anyone who might relate to the puerile style of the novel.

In summary, they’ve taken a good book and made it into a graphic novel that was too short, too simple and just will not resonate with any audience who can relate to it. I was thrilled to have been given the opportunity to review this novel but in the end… I’m just shaking my head.


Christianity. . .It's Like This: An Uncomplicated Look at What It Means to Be a Christ-FollowerChristianity. . .It’s Like This: An Uncomplicated Look at What It Means to Be a Christ-Follower by David R. Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is an accessible introduction to the Christian faith. It covers all the standard topics from what is God? Who is Jesus and the Holy Spirit? And of course all the various points of what happens after you’re dead and what should you do while you’re still alive. In the interest of full disclosure, however, it must be noted that I am not a Christian and generally tend to view the mystical aspects of the Christian faith as pure hogwash. But in the interest of honest reviewing I will not let that obscure my vision as I look at this book as a purely academic endeavor.

To the positive, the book is, as it claims, very uncomplicated and easy to follow. It also adheres to the familiar and rigorous pattern of introducing a topic to you, telling you what it means to you and then backing up the point with citations from the Bible itself. It’s an accessible but also academic form that the author has done a good job of using to make the potentially complicated very easily digested.

The only negative I would point out is that the book isn’t really breaking any new ground. I’ve read lots of similar Christian “explainers” and they all seem to follow very similar lines. These are the same basic arguments that I’ve read a dozen times and as an atheist I’m no closer to believing them in this accessible form than I was when I read them in C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity.”

In summary, this book is what it says it is. It’s very accessible and a great primer for those who might be confused. I’d suggest, however, that it is just that though, a primer. Those who want a more in depth take or have deeper doubts, I’d suggest you go straight to the Lewis and skip this one.


Alive Souls: InceptionAlive Souls: Inception by Elena Yulkina

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book is a weird mix of the Superman “alien sent to Earth to get away” theme and the Never-ending Story’s “the nothing is taking over our world” story. The story is complex and endlessly convoluted but at the same time extremely short which makes for an odd and transition-free reading experience.

To the positive side, the author has no shortage of ideas and seems to spout them onto the page with complete abandon. I’ve read many books that had only a fraction as much to say but took four times longer to say it. This book certainly doesn’t leave you guessing about anything for long.

To the negative, the book is almost painfully difficult to read at times. The narrative thrashes through so much so quickly and completely without transition that there is no time at all for proper plot or character development. You can pound through this book in less than an hour but it seems a lifetime has passed in the life of the protagonist. Add to this the often nonsensical things which happen to the character because of this lack of transition and you end up with a real head-scratcher. Textually, the book has some real problems as well. It reads like a child’s book most of the time but will suddenly launch into vocabulary that sent me to the dictionary and then right back to child lit. It’s almost as if the author consulted a thesaurus just to have something big to throw in about every 20 pages or was not a native speaker of English. Add to this the frequent misuse of words altogether and you’ve got a book that needs a lot of editing.

In summary, the author has a lot of good ideas but has absolutely no idea how to properly cobble them together into a novel. This book feels like the Cliff’s Notes version of a 3-4 volume epic masterpiece. It gives you the general flavor of what the author wanted to accomplish but fails to provide any of the meat. Just as you were getting to know what was going on the book is suddenly over.


A Time-Traveller's Best FriendA Time-Traveller’s Best Friend by W.R. Gingell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The nutshell view of this book is difficult to constrain simply. A pair of time-travelers (a’la Doctor Who) skip about between a series of diverse worlds and engage in various rather disconnected adventures mostly involving criminal activities of a non-threatening sort.

To the positive, the author’s work has a tongue-in-cheek Douglas Adams feel about it though it must be admitted Gingell’s main theme of stealing a spacecraft (which can communicate verbally and has an annoying personality) and taking off in it does have somewhat of a derivative and familiar feel to it. The writing is solid in style and flows along quite nicely from a textual standpoint. The pace is fast, the action is reasonably gripping and the sense of world and character is intriguing and original.

To the negative, the work as a whole seems somewhat fragmented. I arrived at the end and wasn’t entirely sure how (or if) the beginning, middle and end related to each other. Certainly the characters are consistent throughout but there was no solid sense of A then B then C. In part this is a result of the non-linear construction and is a typical result of time-travel as a plot element but generally one expects things to finally come together in a more cohesive corpus when the end is finally reached.

In summary, this is a solid first effort in this series and has much potential but I think that in order to really take off the over-arching plot needs more solidity and consistency to give the reader a firmer sense of completion and narrative arc once the last page is reached.


Freddy Fumple and the MindmonstersFreddy Fumple and the Mindmonsters by Vegard Svingen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The nutshell view on this book is that it lies closely along the lines of the movie “The Never-ending story” from a few decades back. It’s fairly standard youth escapism in which the protagonist has some exceptional ability that means only they can save some faraway world from the oncoming devastation caused by the unbelief of the rest of the world. That’s the general idea and telling you any more would constitute a spoiler so I’ll just leave it at that.

I believe this to be primarily YA literature so I judge it by my standard three rules for books intended for children. Firstly, I ask myself if there’s any reason I wouldn’t want my children to read this book. I have absolutely no tolerance for drug or sexual references and this book is clean in that regard. There is some mild violence but nothing that’s going to make the average child concerned. Language, however, could be a major problem. There is a LOT of profanity and some of it is used in somewhat abusive situations. There are several dam*s, a couple shi*s, one godda&m and dozens of a$$ because one of the villains name is, I kid you not, A$s so his name is used as a running joke in every puerile manner possible from dumba$s to half-a$s to every other thing you can imagine. So on these grounds if you don’t want your child exposed to profanity, there’s your warning.

The second question I ask myself is whether I would want my child to read this book for some positive reason. Usually this involves some good life lesson that children can benefit from. In this case, the lessons, if there are any, are pretty week. The crux of the whole thing revolves around belief in a mysterious Other world which… I’m not terribly concerned if my children believe in myths or not. There is a weak thread of sticking with your friends and building teamwork but it’s not a terribly central theme. So the book is rather weak in this regard.

The last question is whether the reader will enjoy it. In this case I’d say it’s a strong yes. For all the book lacks in moral fibre and age-appropriate language, it is surprisingly entertaining. Because of the way in which characters and monsters are named it comes across as very 7-9 year old though so it’s going to be hard to get kids who might appreciate it to look past the silliness of that.

In summary, the book is much better than its cover and its title. I had a fair amount of fun reading it though I did start to get the creeping feeling that this story wasn’t all that original. At its heart, it’s just The Never-ending Story in a different venue but it’s a fairly original venue and the characters are entertaining and fresh at least.


And there you have it. The week that was in book reviews here at the Tattered Thread. Do you have a book that you would like reviewed? Just drop me an email or a comment and I can add you to my queue.

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War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay

War Brothers: The Graphic NovelWar Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

By now you know the spiel; I received this book through a GoodReads giveaway. Even though it was free I’m not above giving a crushing review to a free book. As further preamble, I don’t seek out to read graphic novels but I will look at anything put in front of me, so here we go.

As I said in the intro, I’m not a comic books sort of reader in general so right off that puts me at a bit of a disadvantage. I don’t have a whole lot to compare this to. In simple terms it was about a 45 minute read even with the distraction of pedaling an exercise bike the whole time. Being a comic book it’s very easy to read and very accessible. The illustrations were well done, dark and foreboding. That fits well since the topic was itself so dark and foreboding. So as graphic novels go, absolutely no complaints at a technical level.

The content, as you have no doubt surmised from the publisher’s description, surrounds the conscription of young men by Ugandan rebels. Written from the perspective of a young man who is a victim of this conscription, it does tend to tug at your heart strings. In the U.S. there’s not a lot of awareness that this sort of thing goes on so I applaud the book for introducing this hitherto untold story to domestic readers. It tells the story in a heart-felt way but left me as a reader rather wanting more information. The graphic novel genre only supports so much throughput so this isn’t an especially surprising eventuality.

To sum up, an interesting story told in far too brief a format. I wanted more data but what was presented was fairly intriguing. Not the most amazing thing I’ve ever read but certainly a 45 minutes well spent.

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Books for the first week-ish of November

The Art of WarThe Art of War by Kelly Roman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As usual I received this graphic novel as a giveaway on GoodReads. As a Graphic Novel “The Art of War” is rather outside my general ken of reading. I don’t scoff too loudly at the genre but it’s not typically one that I seek out with great enthusiasm unless, of course, it happens to arrive free in the mail. Therefore I’ll be the first to admit that I may not be the most qualified person to trust on this topic.

Roman’s offering certainly doesn’t lack for gritty violence. His ample use of weaponized quantum singularities and bio-engineered insects does keep things interesting. The overall story line, while not especially complex, does tie together rather nicely and seems a wonderful example of the genre. As is typical when a book has few negative points, I don’t really have a ton to say about it. It’s a quick and entertaining read but at the same time not something I’d necessarily recommend to others. There’s no life-changing moment here, just a random bit of entertainment well executed both textually and visually.

Habits of the HouseHabits of the House by Fay Weldon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book as part of the GoodReads FirstReads program and it was one that I was fairly giddy to have won. As a fan of historical fiction generally and “Upstairs Downstairs” specifically I was more than ready to enjoy this one.

On the good side the book gives us a wonderfully open portrayal of the behavior of the landed class at the time. No secret is too dark, no behavior too perverse to be placed on display. We’re introduced to some of the notable personages of the time and the scene is littered with tidbits of historical amusement from the Boer Wars to steam powered autos. Weldon also treats us to a myriad of period vernacular that causes us Midwestern types to scramble for our dictionaries. If nothing else it’s worth reading just for the language. Organizationally the book’s short (almost tiny) chapters are each date-headed and titled helping the reader keep track of a sometimes tangled chronology. This is the sort of book you can take in small bites if you need to and come back without losing much of the thread of the narrative.

On the other side, there’s just not quite as much story as one would expect from a period piece. Readers who anticipate a Classical level of detail from this novel are bound to be disappointed. It is a novel very much boiled down to its nucleus, a traveling sideshow rather than a museum piece. Additionally, while our author uses some amusing bits of language they do at times seem forced and inconsistently timed. Her characters whip out a colorful phrase about every 20 pages and then revert to current standard English until it is once again time to find an appropriate period idiom to insert. As the current vernacular so aptly puts it, “go big or go home”; if your characters drawl along in Cockney rhyming slang in chapter 1 then they’d best do so for the duration lest purists like me complain about it in online reviews.

To summarize, Weldon’s novel is a cute period piece but it’s a period piece written for the masses. Bibliophiles who have come to this novel as a modern break from perusing Austen would be advised to understand that this is a novel written for an audience less accustomed to the complexities of Classical literature. Readers are also advised to take a page of notes on the dramatis personae as they are introduced. Personally I had some difficulty sorting out the rather homogeneous nomenclature of the various characters involved.

Bad Blood (Virgil Flowers, #4)Bad Blood by John Sandford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As usual, I received this book from a GoodReads giveaway. It’s also worth noting that this novel belongs to a genre that is normally not among those I pick up for frequent perusal. Because of this I’m reviewing a bit outside my ken.

In a nutshell, Sandford’s novel is about as pulpy as it gets: gritty, action packed and completely unapologetic about it. Despite the fact that this is not a genre I tend to pick up, and I’m not likely even now to start, I did find myself dragged along quite against my will once having started. Sandford’s style is marvelous and it’s obvious that he’s been doing writing in this vein for quite some time. Easily the best I’ve read in the crime-action genre.

My only real complaint is that he does tend to go over the top. His dramatic conclusion reads more like a scene from a war movie than a police action. If this sort of thing regularly occurs then I’m rather surprised there are any cops left to keep the peace.

That aside, Sandford’s writing is solid and his topic engaging. For those who enjoy work in the CSI realm this is a grand example of the genre.

When I was Young I Flew the Sun as a KiteWhen I was Young I Flew the Sun as a Kite by Kayla Fioravanti

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Firstly, and as I very frequently note, I received this book via a GoodReads FirstReads giveaway. It’s also worth mentioning that I am not, as a general rule, a reader of poetry books. I have nothing against them but they’re not something I seek out with any regularity whatsoever. I also do not know the author and am providing my absolutely candid feedback on their offering below.

Since I am not one who wanders into the poetry genre very often I can only have one real criterion for judging it and that is, simply, its power to evoke the ineffable. Did the words as laid out by the poet bring to mind some feeling, or concept that wasn’t inherently present in the surface interpretation of the words? Or to put it more simply, did the poet make me feel something?

Fioravanti’s book earns three stars out of five in that regard (it should be noted that GoodReads rating system is irrationally biased towards the positive with three stars indicating not neutrality but a relatively positive result) as many of her poems did leave me with that vague “where did that come from?” sensation. In a few instances she pulled things into my consciousness rather unbidden that I wouldn’t have expected. This is the result of good poetry and should be applauded.

There are a couple of counts in which the author does tend to lose me but they’re not at all surprising and not her fault. She’s obviously a very devout and thankful Christian and since I’m not, I obviously have to give those bits a pass. I respect utterly her journey in that regard but I do not share that so she wanders a bit afield from my standpoint as a reader. Secondly, and even more obviously, she’s sharing her journey through life as a woman/wife/etc and so in some ways I’m not all that qualified (as a man) to relate very strongly to her point of view. Again, I respect it and honor it but can’t say “been there, done that”.

In summary, Fioravanti’s work is a collection of very respectable and well-honed poetry. I congratulate her on her work and think the world of it though since I am so far outside its intended demographic it does tend to fall a bit short of the hoped for 5-stars in my view. I am sure that the majority of other readers will not be so encumbered.

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