I've been a book worm for pretty much my whole life. I've read many types of books over the course of my life, but currently the sorts of books I enjoy the most are fantasy and science-fiction. I particularly like it if these genre's are mixed with comedy like the style of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. I definitely can enjoy more serious fantasy and science-fiction though. I also enjoy vampire books, but not quite as much as I did when I was younger.

This blog is mainly for my book reviews, but I also post quotes and other random book related things. If you'd like to know more about the books I've read and am planning to read, I'm a member at several different book sites, and links to my profiles are listed under My Pages.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review of Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett is the story of a young musician named Imp who journeys from his small mountain town to the big city of Ankh-Morpork hoping to make it big. He meets up with a couple other musicians and they form a band but they have little success. When Imp's harp is accidentally destroyed, his band mates purchase a strange looking guitar for him from a mysterious music shop. Imp seems to have no trouble learning to play this new instrument and it seems to cast a spell upon him, his band mates, and everyone who hears his music and he becomes an instant celebrity. Unfortunately there are those that are not a fan of this new music and will go to great lengths to put a stop to it.

This book was pretty funny, and as always I loved Pratchett's use of humorous imagery and phrasing as well as the hilarious footnotes. I also loved all of the music related puns throughout the book. I'd definitely recommend this book to fans of Terry Pratchett and the Discworld series.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Review of Troubling a Star by Madeleine L'Engle

Troubling a Star by Madeleine L'Engle is the last book in the Austin Family series. In this story Vicky Austin is granted a very generous gift from a friend of the family to take a trip to Antarctica. Vicky is very excited about this trip until she receives some anonymous warnings from someone who would prefer her to not go on the trip. She disregards the warnings and goes on the trip anyway and finds herself in the middle of an international conspiracy and her life is put in danger by those who think she knows more than she actually does. This was an ok read, but it was a bit tedious in places. I think I actually enjoyed the descriptions of scenery and the characters interactions with the wildlife than I did the actual plot of the story. One thing I didn't like that much was the use of a flash forward scene at the beginning of each chapter. In general this is a literary device that I don't enjoy and find that it just makes the story harder to follow.

I don't think it's strictly necessary to read any of the other books in the series before reading this book, but I would recommend reading the rest of the series first, plus The Arm of the Starfish, if you'd like some background information on the characters and previous events in their lives. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of The Austin Family series or of the author, but I'm not sure how much someone not familiar with the series would get out of this book.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review of The Unadulterated Cat by Terry Pratchett

The Unadulterated Cat by Terry Pratchett is an amusing commentary on the behavior of cats and how the author feels that some cats are more real than others and gives a comprehensive guide on how to tell a real cat from an unreal one along with some hypothetical musings. This was a fun quick read and I especially enjoyed all of the references to Schrodinger's cat. I also thought it was hilarious that some of the "real" cats that the author seemed to be describing seemed very much like the cat Greebo from his Discworld series. This is a must read for cat lovers and you might even enjoy it even if you're not a cat person like me, but are still exposed to cats enough to be familiar with their behavior.

Review of Prince Lestat by Anne Rice

Prince Lestat by Anne Rice is the newest book in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles series. In this story there is a mysterious disembodied voice that plagues Lestat and numerous vampires around the world. At first the voice is just harmless and taunting, but soon it gains the ability to manipulate the more weak minded vampires into doing its bidding. The book recounts the stories of the different vampires that have been affected by this voice and how they must all come together to put a stop to it. I did enjoy this book for the most part even if some of the turns of events it was quite obvious what was going to happen beforehand. It was quite verbose and drawn out, but not nearly as tedious as some of Anne Rice's other books.

This book provided a nice recap of the events from many of the previous books from the series which was a good refresher for people already familiar with those books eliminating the need to read them again before reading this book. It's probably not strictly necessary to read the previous books before reading this book if you've never read them before, but you will get the most out of this book if you have read them. I would recommend reading the majority of the series before starting this book. The only books that can probably be skipped are Merrick, Blackwood Farm, and Blood Canticle because those are crossover books with the Mayfair Witches trilogy and there is no mention of the Mayfair Witches in this book. You also probably don't need to read Vittorio the Vampire either because that book was a completely standalone novel and the protagonist of that book does not make an appearance in this one. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the Vampire Chronicles.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Review of Second Universe by John A. Ayala

I'm not sure why I even bothered to read Second Universe, the sequel to Primordial Labyrinth by John A. Ayala when I really didn't like the first one at all. I suppose I was hoping the sequel would help me understand the first short story better, but it really did not have that effect. This story was slightly easier to follow than the first one, but not enough to earn it more than one star. The most I could gather from the plot was that the protagonist and a couple of companions fled from war to a different universe where they then multiplied and then eventually started war in the second universe and dragged a few other universes into the war as well. Like Primordial Labyrinth, I feel like this short story was more like an outline for a story rather than a story in and of itself and that the author just tried to pack way too much stuff into too short of a story. I definitely don't recommend reading this story, and I doubt I will be reading anything else from this author.

Review of Primordial Labyrinth by John A. Ayala

I don't really have too much to say about the short story Primordial Labyrinth by John A. Ayala. I'm not even entirely sure what this story was about because it was so confusing and hard to follow. The best I could make out was that it involved some sort of space war to try to defeat some sort of labyrinth that may have been putting the entire universe in danger, but I'm not even entirely sure what exactly the labyrinth was. This short story seemed more like an outline for a story rather than a story itself. Maybe it could have been good if it was turned into a full length novel but it's pretty awful as it currently stands. I think the author tried to pack way too much into too short of a story without really bothering to explain a lot of things. I definitely would not recommend reading this story.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Review of Klarity by C. J. Anderson

Klarity by C. J. Anderson is a short story about a scientist who creates a miracle drug that will cure Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases. He rushes to test the drug on his ill son, and while the drug works, it has the serious side effect of turning him into an atheist. As an extremely religious man, this is a side effect that he cannot live with and he must make the decision whether or not to destroy his groundbreaking discovery. While I thought the concept of this story was interesting, and in some ways reminded me of Flowers for Algernon, I thought it was poorly executed. The writing seemed amateur and awkward in many places and the timeline jumping around was somewhat confusing. I also felt the religious zealotry in this story was over the top. I know there are religious extremists out there, but the way it was done in this story wasn’t very believable to me and it almost seemed like it was meant to be satire, but if it was, it wasn’t very funny. I also did not find the ending to the story to be at all satisfying and for the most part didn’t seem to have too much to do with the rest of the story. Overall I don’t think I enjoyed this story very much and wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a shame really because it was such an intriguing story premise, but it could have been done so much better than it was.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review of The Dark Side of the Sun by Terry Pratchett

The Dark Side of the Sun by Terry Pratchett is the story of a young man named Dom who has been appointed to a powerful position on his planet, but unfortunately there have been multiple attempts on his life. It has been foretold that it is his fate to discover the world of the race of beings that seeded life in the universe and there are those that would prefer that this information not get out. This book follows Dom's adventures as he sets out on his quest to find answers and fulfill his destiny.

I have to say that I honestly didn't enjoy this book very much. It was completely different in style to everything else I've ever read by Terry Pratchett and if it weren't for the use of some terminology that was also used in his Discworld series, I wouldn't have even known I was reading one of his books. The humor that I've come to know and love in his writing just wasn't present in this book. There were some things that seemed like they were meant to be funny, but really just weren't. I did try to be open-minded about reading something more serious by Pratchett, but the lack of humor in the book wasn't the only thing wrong with it. I just found the book very hard to follow and I found myself feeling lost and confused at least a third of the time when reading it if not more. I think it would have helped if the author had spent more time explaining the various alien races in more detail as well as the technology used. I also felt the ending to the book was weird and really not that satisfying. It's a shame because the premise of this story was interesting and I did like how ancient alien theory was worked into the story, but it could have been done so much better than it was. At least it was a fairly short read so I didn't waste too much of my time on it. I really wouldn't recommend this book unless you're a hardcore Pratchett fan who absolutely has to read everything he's ever written.

Review of A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle

A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle is the fourth book in the Austin Family series. This is a hard summer for Vicky and her family. They are spending an extended vacation with her grandfather who is dying of leukemia, but as if that wasn't enough to deal with, one tragedy after another strikes the community. Vicky tries to keep herself busy helping out with a dolphin communications experiment, but all of the horrible things that are happening definitely take their toll on her. On top of the various tragedies, she's also got three different guys vying for her attention and she has to figure out who she really wants to be with. She spends a lot of time with her grandfather and in his illness he imparts a great deal of wisdom to her. Even that isn't enough to heal her soul though, and she can only find comfort and solace in the dolphins that she has come to know and care for.

This is a very sad book, but it's also probably my favorite in this series and I'd highly recommend it. I just love reading about the spiritual connection that the main character has with the dolphins and with the guy leading the experiment. This book can probably be read as a standalone, but would be a good idea to read the previous books in the series plus The Arm of the Starfish for background story.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Review of Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett is the second Discworld novel featuring the Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork. There is a string of mysterious murders and the victims were killed by a strange new weapon. It's up to the Night Watch to investigate these murders and figure out how they were killed and by whom, all while the captain of the Night Watch is getting married and retiring and new recruits are being trained. This was quite a humorous murder mystery novel and I think I liked it somewhat better than the first Night Watch book, Guards! Guards!. This book takes place after Guards! Guards! and while it's not strictly necessary to read that book first, it does provide background on the characters.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Review of The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L'Engle

The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L'Engle is the third book in the Austin Family series. After moving to New York city, Dr. Wallace Austin begins research on a new device that will pave the way for major advancements in the field of medicine. Though he is unaware of this, there are those that would want to misuse this technology and his children are put at risk by people who want to get their hands on it. One friend to his children finds himself caught up right in the middle of this conspiracy with both sides vying for his assistance. He's not sure who to trust and by the time he figures it out, it may be too late.

This book is mainly a mystery thriller with some light science fiction mixed in and I thought it was an ok read. I think I did enjoy it more than the first two Austin books, though those two were more realistic fiction. It's not necessary to read the first two Austin books before reading this one unless you want some background on the characters. This book does connect with The Arm of the Starfish though and has a bit of character crossover so I'd recommend reading that book first, but again it's not entirely necessary. This book is in fact very similar to The Arm of the Starfish. Both books feature the head of the family making some sort of scientific breakthrough that ends up putting their family at risk as well as the world at large and someone connected to the family ends up caught in the middle of it and playing a major role. I should note that there aren't any actual unicorns in this book or anything in the book that would give me a clue as to why it was titled the way it was.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Review of A Book of God's Love by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

A Book of God's Love by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen is a short book discussing spiritual topics such as unconditional love, forgiveness, and others. Some parts of the book definitely resonated with me more than others, but I didn't find it too hard to take the wisdom that was meaningful to me and discard the rest. Even when reading parts of the book that I didn't particularly resonate with, I still felt a sense of peace when reading it. One thing I particularly liked about the book was the theme that one should forever be a student and never stop learning and questioning the world around us. I think that people who have more traditional spiritual beliefs would get even more out of this book than I did.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review of Return to Avalon by Jennifer Roberson

Return to Avalon edited by Jennifer Roberson is an anthology of Arthurian short stories. With the exception of Lady of Avalon(not to be confused with the novel by the same name), none of these stories have anything to do with Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon. Lady of Avalon is set some time after the events of The Mists of Avalon and tells the story of the current high priestess being captured and turned into a slave by a Saxon king. It was a pretty good story and I enjoyed reading it. Most of the other stories I'd rate as three stars with some four star ones scattered throughout the book. Of the other stories there weren't any that stood out as particularly good or particularly bad. One thing that was curious is that a lot of the stories in the book I would hesitate to classify as Arthurian fiction. There were many that had more the feel of fairy tales to them and didn't seem to have anything to do with Arthurian legends as far as I could tell. There was also one Shakespearian short story that seemed really out of place. I thought it was a good story and I did enjoy it, but it just really didn't seem like it belonged in this collection. Overall I'd say this book was an ok read and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes Arthurian and medieval fiction, though I think I liked the Out of Avalon anthology better. To anyone wanting to read this book just for the Lady of Avalon story, it's probably only worth it if you can borrow the book or get it for a low price unless you are a really big fan of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon series.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review of The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L'Engle

The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L'Engle is the story of a young man named Adam Eddington who has landed a summer job abroad with a renowned marine biologist, Dr. Calvin O'Keefe. Due to unforeseen circumstances he winds up caught in the middle of an international conspiracy between Dr. O'Keefe and those that would steal his work. Adam must figure out who he can trust and decide whose side he wants to be on, but this decision is not as simple as he would like.

This book was an ok read. It was mostly a mystery thriller type novel with some light science fiction mixed in. The scientific concepts presented in the book were very interesting and there was a good bit of action as well. I'm not sure I entirely liked where the book ended though and felt it could have done with one more chapter to provide some additional closure, but I suppose the author wanted to leave that up to the reader's imagination. This book crosses over with L'Engle's Time Quintet series and features characters from that series, but all grown up with children of their own. This book takes place between books four and five of the Time Quintet and while it's not necessary to read the first four books before reading this book, I would recommend reading this book before reading the fifth book of the Time Quintet.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review of Awakening: A Sufi Experience by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

Awakening: A Sufi Experience by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan gives a good overview of the beliefs and ideals of Sufism. Admittedly there was some material that was over my head, but a surprising amount of what I read was familiar to me. This is because Sufism draws from many different religions and cultures and there were concepts discussed in this book that closely resembled things I had learned when studying new age spirituality. There is a lot of emphasis on meditation in this book and it describes many different meditation and breathing exercises. Some of these I was already familiar with, but many of them were new to me. One thing that I thought was really cool about this book is that scientific principles are often used to help explain metaphysical and spiritual concepts which certainly made them easier for me to understand. I thought this was an excellent book and I'd highly recommend it to anyone new to the subject. I really enjoyed reading it and just the act of reading this book helped me to feel more peaceful.
"If you think that you are handicapped in some way, you will find that your compensation for it is a quality that you wouldn't have cultivated if it were not for that innate flaw. Indeed, one is never so strong as when one is broken."

~Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, Awakening: A Sufi Experience
"Beware of confining yourself to a particular belief and denying all else, for much good would elude you --- indeed, the knowledge of reality would elude you."

~Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan and Ibn al 'Arabi, Awakening: A Sufi Experience

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review of Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

In Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett the witches of Lancre return from their travels to find that a lot has been going on in their absence. Magrat finds that her boyfriend, the king, has been arranging their wedding before even proposing to her. There's also a new group of young witches who are experimenting with magic without really knowing what they are doing. With Magrat busy with her wedding plans and trying to learn how to be a queen, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg must put a stop to this new young coven and undo the damage they've done.

This book is a hilarious parody that is a mix of The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night's Dream. It made me laugh a lot and I'd highly recommend it. Lords and Ladies takes place after Witches Abroad and while I would recommend reading that book first to understand some of the references, it's not entirely necessary. It might also help to be at least somewhat familiar with the Shakespearian plays mentioned and have some basic knowledge of quantum theories, but again it's not entirely necessary to enjoy this book.
"In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded."

~Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies

Monday, September 8, 2014

Review of The Moon by Night by Madeleine L'Engle

The Moon by Night by Madeleine L'Engle is the second book in the Austin Family series and takes place a couple of years after Meet the Austins. The father of the family gets a new job and they have to move, but they decide to take a road trip/camping vacation all across the country first to bond as a family. I'd say that a lot of the book was fairly dull and just described the various places they visited, though some of the scenery descriptions were quite nice. Things did get more interesting when the main character met a guy at one of the campsites and they seemed to become instantly fascinated with each other and he actually followed/stalked her around the country much to her delight and her family's dismay. There was still a lot of dull filler type stuff after that with a few exciting events here and there, but I did enjoy reading about the budding relationship which had a lot of ups and downs. Overall I'd say that I enjoyed this book a bit more than Meet the Austins, but I probably wouldn't rate it as more than three stars. There was one brief reference to A Wrinkle in Time which really made me smile.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review of Backwards by Rob Grant

Backwards by Rob Grant is the forth book based on the British science fiction comedy show Red Dwarf. The crew of Red Dwarf gets stranded in an alternate dimension on an alternate version of Earth where time runs in the opposite direction. Many years pass before they are able to escape this dimension and when they finally do, Red Dwarf isn't where they left it. With the limited supplies aboard their transport vessel, they must search for Red Dwarf in order to survive. This book was a fun quick read and left me wanting more. Unfortunately as of right now there are no more Red Dwarf books.

This book is an alternate sequel to Better Than Life so it picks up where that book left off and takes place parallel to Last Human. You'll definitely want to read Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers and Better Than Life before reading this book, but it doesn't matter if you read it before or after reading Last Human. I think this book resembles the events of the show more closely than Last Human does. It was also the funnier of the two books so I enjoyed it more. I'd say that Last Human is still worth reading though even if it wasn't quite as good as this book. To anyone looking to both watch the show and read the books, I recommend watching the entire show before starting on the books because the differences between the two will be less confusing that way.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"We cannot choose what we are, yet what are we, but the sum of our choices?"

~Rob Grant, Backwards

A Few Tips For Independent Authors

This is really more of a post about my pet peeves regarding independent authors on various book sites, but I figure it's probably helpful for authors to know what readers don't want to see when they are promoting their books.

Joining a number of social book sites is a good way to promote your books, especially if you join discussion groups. Before promoting your books in a discussion group though, take some time to look around the group to determine what the group's policy on advertising is. Some groups don't allow advertising at all. If this is the case, please respect this policy and don't promote your books here as it will be considered spam. Many groups do allow advertising, but only allow it in a specific section of the group. Please respect this and don't post advertisements outside of the designated section or it will be considered spam. If you've looked around and a group doesn't have any policies against advertising and doesn't have a designated advertisement section, then feel free to promote your books in the main group section.

Don't promote your books too often. Even if you stick to groups that allow advertising and only promote your books in the designated areas of the groups, promoting your books too often still looks like spam. Also try to get involved in the group discussions. This doesn't bother me much, but some people aren't very receptive to authors who join groups for the sole purpose of promoting their books.

If you are having a sale or a free giveaway for your books that only lasts a few days or less, please give advanced notice before the sale/free giveaway starts. Many people don't have time to check the book groups for new messages everyday and some rely on daily or weekly email digests to keep up with the group activity. So unless your intention is to only get your books out to a limited number of people, I'd recommend giving at least a week's notice before a limited time sale or giveaway.

Make your ebooks available in as many formats as possible. A number of times I've seen authors offering copies of their ebooks only in pdf format. I know there are plenty of people out there that like pdfs for whatever reason, but for many people, including myself, it's the last choice of ebook format we'd want. There are many reading devices that either can't open pdfs or are difficult and awkward to read pdfs on. If you make readers go out of their way to read your books, they will be less likely to want to read them at all. Epub and mobi are two of the most widely used ebook formats right now and it would be good to provide your ebooks in those formats at the very least and branch out into other formats if possible. While epub and mobi formats can easily be converted back and forth, it would be preferable to provide your ebooks in both formats for those that lack the knowledge to do conversions.

Don't use unsuspecting readers as beta readers. Take the time to revise and edit your work before publishing and/or giving away free copies for reviews. If you want someone to beta read your work, then find a specific writing group for that, but don't pass off your books as finished and then use reader reviews and feedback to go back and put out a second revised edition of your books. This is unethical regardless of whether someone actually paid for your books or received free copies. If you want to look for beta readers in discussion groups, then make sure you are clear about your intentions.

Don't get bent out of shape if someone gives you constructive criticism. If you lash out at someone it only makes you look bad and readers are less inclined to read books from authors that act like asses. Whether someone is giving constructive feedback on your book, the book's cover, or your marketing practices there are only three acceptable responses. You can thank the person for their feedback, you can calmly explain why you chose to do things the way you did, or you can choose not to respond at all. Picking one or both of the first two options will make you look like an open minded gracious author. Picking the third option might not give the best impression, but it's certainly better than lashing out in anger.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review of Last Human by Doug Naylor

Last Human by Doug Naylor is the third book based on the British science fiction comedy show Red Dwarf. The crew of Red Dwarf accidentally end up in an alternate dimension and they find an alternate copy of their transport ship Starbug with all the crew dead inside except for Lister. They set out on a quest to find what's become of the alternate Lister, but when they find him, he turns out to be a lot more different from Lister than they had imagined. I would say that overall this book wasn't quite as funny as the first two, but it still had parts that really made me laugh and it was full of exciting adventure, so was a pretty good read overall. I think it's definitely worth reading if you enjoyed the first two books.

This book picks up right where Better Than Life left off, so you should definitely read it and Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers before reading this book. There are bits and pieces from the show in this book, but the storyline itself is very different. It's not necessarily a bad thing though. It's pretty cool to read storylines that were never in the show. I'd just recommend not starting this book(or the others before it) until you finish watching the show to avoid confusion.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review of Better Than Life by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor

Better Than Life by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor is the second book based on the British science fiction comedy show Red Dwarf. The crew of Red Dwarf's journey to return to Earth gets interrupted when they find themselves trapped inside of an addictive virtual reality game and they must find a way to escape before their real world bodies die. This proves to be no easy task though since they can't leave unless they want to, and even after reaching that state they face many additional obstacles preventing their escape. This book was pretty funny and I enjoyed reading it just as much as the first book. Like with the ending of the first book, it didn't exactly end on a cliffhanger, but it did make me want to read the third book right away.

This book picks up right where the first one left off, so you really do need to read Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers before reading this book. There are differences between the show and the books, so if you plan on watching the show as well, I'd recommend watching all of the seasons before starting on the books as going back and forth can get confusing.
"Don't trust Time. Time will always get you in the end."

~Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, Better Than Life

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review of Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor

Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor is a novel based on the British sci-fi comedy show Red Dwarf. Dave Lister, a lowly technician on the mining spaceship Red Dwarf, gets put into stasis as a punishment for smuggling a cat on board. When he emerges from stasis he finds that a nuclear accident wiped out the rest of the crew and it is now three million years in the future. The only other survivors are a feline-humanoid life form that evolved from his cat, and his bunk mate who died but was revived as a hologram. Tensions are high as they do their best to survive and navigate the various obstacles they must face as they try to make their way back to earth.

This was a quick but fun read. The ending wasn't exactly a cliffhanger, but it did make me want to read the next book right away. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or anyone that just enjoys British humor. Though I did enjoy the book a lot, I thought the show was funnier. I think this is mostly due to the fact that sometimes humor translates better in an audio-visual format than the written word and for this reason I also found The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio plays to be funnier than the books. I don't think it's necessary to watch the show before you read the books, but it's more fun that way because it's easier to imagine the character's voices and what they look like. The book does give some background story to the show, but it's different in a lot of ways. Some events happen in a different order than they do in the show and many plot details are different. If you do decide to watch the show before reading the book, I'd recommend watching the entire series before starting the book. I started reading the book after I'd only watched most of the second season and then started going back and forth between the show and the book. I started to find this rather confusing due to the differences between the show and the book and it became harder to keep the storylines of each one straight in my mind. I'm hooked now though and I definitely couldn't wait to finish watching the entire series before starting the next book.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Review of Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle

Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle is an episodic type book about events in the lives of the Austin family. The book starts off with them being informed of the death of a close family friend and then shortly afterward they take in a little girl who was orphaned due to the same accident that killed their friend. The child turns out to be a difficult spoiled brat and it takes the family a long time to adjust to her living with them. Each chapter tells of different random events in the lives of this family until the future of the orphan can be decided. For the most part I found this book to be rather dull and I was glad that it was a fairly short read so it didn't take me too long to get through it.  I probably would have rated this book as two stars, but there were some parts of the book that were really quite funny and made me laugh, so I gave it an extra star for that. I doubt I'll be reading it again though. I still plan to read the other books in this series because there are some character's that overlap with the author's Time Quintet series which I love, and I recall reading other books in this series as a child and enjoying them much more than I did this book. I probably wouldn't recommend this book unless you are a big fan of the author or a completionist as far as series go.

I also have some additional thoughts on this book. I found a lot of similarities between the family in this book and the family in the author's other book, A Wrinkle in Time. Both families have four children and multiple pets and they both live in similar types of houses. They both live in small towns and both live in the same part of the country. The main character in both books is the eldest daughter and both of them are rather plain looking and insecure about their appearance. I also noticed at least three character names that were used in both books, though there were some variations in two of the names. I'm not saying that all of this is a bad thing necessarily, but it did give me the impression that the author had some creative difficulties. I can overlook most of the similarities, but I found the name thing a bit annoying and feel it shouldn't have been too difficult for the author to come up with more original character names.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Review of Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett is the story of a dimwitted novice priest of the god Om, named Brutha, with an eidetic memory who becomes a prophet rather against his will. Unfortunately when Brutha meets his god, Om happens to be trapped in the form of a tortoise and is almost powerless. It's up to Brutha to help Om figure out why this happened and to help restore his god to his former glory. In the process Brutha learns the truth about his religion and that much of what he had been taught was false.

This is a very funny religious satire. It made me grin a lot and at times even laugh aloud. I'd definitely recommend this book to Discworld fans as well as anyone who enjoys British humor, provided you aren't sensitive about the subject matter.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

"Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you."

~Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review of Out of Avalon by Jennifer Roberson

Out of Avalon edited by Jennifer Roberson is a collection of Arthurian short stories by various authors. One story entitled The Heart of the Hill is set in Marion Zimmer Bradley's version of Avalon and takes place sometime in the middle of The Mists of Avalon during Morgaine's training to be a priestess. This story was the sole reason I purchased this book and I definitely enjoyed reading it. It should be noted that none of the other stories in this collection have anything to do with Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon, which I was aware of before reading this collection. Many of the other stories are retellings of familiar Arthurian tales, though sometimes the focus is on original characters within those tales. Other stories are merely inspired by Arthurian legends and that particular time period.

Of course some stories I enjoyed more than others, but I would rate most of them as three or four stars. Besides The Heart of the Hill, I also particularly enjoyed The Secret Leaves which is about a young girl that becomes Myrddin's(Merlin's) apprentice and lover, and The Mooncalfe which is about a child with strange abilities born of a human mother and an otherworldly father. The only story that I really didn't care for at all was Me and Galahad which was a search for the holy grail story taking place in an American Western setting. I enjoyed this collection overall, but at times it was a bit confusing just because the stories were all written by different authors, and as such there were many details that were inconsistent from story to story. It was mostly things like differences in character's names and differences in how characters were related to each other, but of course there were even plot details that varied from story to story. After the first few stories though, it was easier for me to go with the flow and not worry so much about the details. I'd definitely recommend this collection to fans of Arthurian or medieval fantasy.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Revisiting Paper Books

I made the switch to ebooks years ago and pretty much exclusively read them over paper books. I can't even remember the last time I read a paper book. There were so many things that I liked better about ebooks that I didn't really miss paper books despite the fact that there was a time in my life when I swore that ebooks could never replace paper books. Two major advantages ebooks had for me is that I didn't have to worry about my hands cramping up from holding the book open and I could make the font bigger to reduce eye strain. There's also none of that musty smell that older books get which really doesn't agree with me. I also love the fact that I can just click on a word I don't know and easily look it up. Reading ebooks on my tablet also means I can read easily in the dark without awkward book lights. It's also extremely convenient that I can carry hundreds of books around with me. Granted I don't actually need hundreds of books with me at once, but it's good because if I finish a book when I'm away from home and I'm not sure in advance what I want to read next, then I have lots of options. Probably the only thing I miss about paper books are physical bookmarks. There are so many beautiful and awesome bookmarks out there and I have some that I really love, but I obviously can't use them with ebooks. Though physical bookmarks also have the disadvantage that they can sometimes fall out of the book and you'll never lose your place with an ebook.

So if I love ebooks so much, why would I ever go back to paper books? Well unfortunately there are some books out there that just aren't available in digital format, either legitimately or as bootlegs. In these cases I have no choice but to use paper books. There are quite a few books I own that I'd like to read again that I can't find as ebooks, and recently I acquired several out of print used paperback books that were also not available as ebooks. I started reading one of these paperbacks yesterday and it was the first time I'd read a physical book in I have no idea how long. I have to say I'm not really enjoying the experience. My hands are cramping up even more painfully than I remember from when I used to read paper books years ago. I think I'd probably do better with hardback books as they would be easier to keep open, but unfortunately most of the books in question were never available as hardbacks. The strain on my eyes doesn't seem too bad, but I'm finding that I have to reread passages much more frequently than I do with ebooks. The musty smell of the book is quite irritating and makes me cough periodically. Of course it's also annoying having to make sure I have an external light source and having to keep my tablet next to me in case I need to look up words. I'm also reluctant to take my paperback books with me when I leave the house for fear that something will happen and they will accidentally get damaged. The only thing I'm really enjoying about reading a paper book again is that I get to use my favorite bookmarks that my grandmother gave me which hold great sentimental value for me. I'm doing the best I can to enjoy the content of the book despite all these frustrations, but I'm finding that I just can't wait to get to the end of the book and be done with it. I'll definitely be happy when the day comes where all the books I want to read will have digital editions.

Review of Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

In Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett an old fairy godmother dies and passes on her wand to the young witch Magrat. She travels, with the other two witches in her coven, to a far off city to complete the work her predecessor started. The trio encounter lots of strange events on the journey and things get even stranger once they reach the city. Someone's been making stories out of people's lives and they must be stopped before it's too late. This story is basically a retelling of Cinderella done Discworld style with a bunch of other fairy tales thrown in for good measure. There's lots of laughs on this adventure, and as always the footnotes are very amusing. I'd definitely recommend this book to fans of Discworld, British humor, and fairy tales.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"A mirror can contain the reflection of the whole universe, a whole skyful of stars in a piece of silvered glass no thicker than a breath."

~Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

Review of The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is an Arthurian tale told from the perspective of women, including King Arthur's mother, aunts, sister, and wife. The story tells about their lives and their struggles, hardships, and romances both before and after the birth of King Arthur and the various ways they plot and participate in shaping the future of their kingdom. This is a very long and slow paced book, but I didn't find it at all tedious to read, which is more than I can say for other books in this series. I enjoyed nearly every minute of reading this book from start to end, and when it was over I felt such longing wanting to read more. I thought that most of the characters were very well done and had lots of depth to them. I especially connected with the character of Morgaine, the narrator and King Arthur's sister, and felt she was a kindred spirit, or as much of one as a book character can be. I also really connected to the spirituality of this book and many of the pagan beliefs described resonate closely with my own eclectic spiritual beliefs. This is definitely one of my favorite books and it will always hold a special place in my heart. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Arthurian fiction or medieval fantasy.

It is not necessary to read any of the other books in Bradley's Avalon series to enjoy this book, though the other books do give a lot of background history to Avalon and even to some of the characters in this book. If you want to read the other books in the series and want to read them chronologically as I did, then The Mists of Avalon should be the last book you read. If you prefer to read the books in publication order, then start with this book and work your way back chronologically.

I re-watched the made for TV movie after I finished reading the book and thoroughly enjoyed it despite the fact that there were many changes. I would say that the movie stayed fairly true to the first half of the book, but the movie changed and left out a lot of things from the second half of the book. Also some of the characters were altered and were nastier than they were in the book and things like that. There were a lot of instances where I could see why things needed to be changed or removed for the movie format, but there were some parts of the book that I really wish had been included in the movie. I suppose if they had included all of the stuff they left out, the movie would have been twice as long as it was. It's still a great movie though and I'm able to enjoy it in and of itself.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Review of Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh is a collection of hilarious short stories and essays about the author's life that range from her crazy antics as a child to her current outlook on life as an adult. I was a fan of the author's blog and was excited when I found out she had published a book as well. There is all new hilarious content in the book not available on the blog which I thoroughly enjoyed, but I was a bit disappointed that some of the stories from the blog did not make it into the book. Here's hoping the author puts out a second volume.

This book made me laugh so much and I'd highly recommend it. To get an idea of what is in the book, visit the author's blog at http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/. Don't let yourself be scared off by the juvenile illustrations. I assure you that it's all a part of the humor. If you enjoy the blog then you should definitely read the book.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"I don’t like when I can’t control what reality is doing. Which is unfortunate because reality works independently of the things I want, and I have only a limited number of ways to influence it, none of which are guaranteed to work."

~Allie Brosh, Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened