Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fantasy Super Pack #1

Fantasy Super Pack #1 –by Fantastic Stories Presents

Fiction / Fantasy
725 pages / 1529 KB
5 Stars

I love short stories, and I love anthologies, and I love the fantasy genre. And, boy howdy! did I ever hit the jackpot on this one! 200,000 words of wonderful, marvelous stories.

Now, mind, these are all reprints, some are classics, and all have been, I'm sure, reviewed individually more than once, so I'm going to try to review the whole book. A bit like drinking from the proverbial fire hydrant, I fear.

The stories contained herein go from very short to a couple of novelette or novellas. They range from laugh-out-loud funny (I'll never tell her dad where the unicorns went), to thoughtful, and sometimes even a bit horrific. I've read some of them before, but when I found The Moon Is Green by Fritz Leiber, I felt like I'd found an old friend who's phone number had been lost years ago. I remembered the story, and by the end of the first two sentences I was once again lost in his post-apocalyptic world. I remembered the story, almost as he wrote it, but had forgotten the title and the author's name. For years the images of the gardens he described have haunted me—in a nice sort of way.

Many of your favorite fantasy authors are in this book from Alma Alexander to Robert F. Young. There are almost as many nebulas (nebuli?) between the covers of this book than there are in the universe.

Normally, when I read a collection like this there is a certain number, say ten percent, of the stories that don't work for me, for whatever reason. Not so in this case. The whole book gels, the stories are all marvelous, and though they may not 'fit' their neighbors with straight seams, they go together as a whole into a bright and beautiful quilt of exquisite velvets and brocades embellished with gold thread. This is a book you will enjoy having in your library, to open read straight through as I did, and later to open at random for a delightful surprise visit from an old friend.

I was furnished a copy of this book in trade for an honest review.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wizard of the Pigeons --by Megan Lindholm

Fiction / urban fantasy
304 pages
5 Stars

I finished reading about the Wizard last night – for the 4th or 5th time. I first read Wizard of the Pigeons 30 years or so ago, and loved it. I learned from it, and that, in my opinion is always goodness. I laughed in places and I wept in places, and in a place or two I became angry. It happens every time I read the book. And every time I read the book, I learn more, see more, feel more.

The story is about a Vietnam vet who has a hard time adjusting to life back in the world. Nothing new in that premise, but Megan Lindholm has a different take on this story that is new and different. We watch our Wizard as he makes mistakes, as he learns how to live on the street, as he tries to deal with the System, as he fails, as he grows, as he faces his fears before they climb over his back to kill him.

This is not a "high fantasy" with swords and sorcery, there are no dragons about to storm Seattle or anywhere else (well, unless you consider pigeons in the dragon class), this is a well-written and well-crafted story of what it takes to survive on the streets. I guarantee if you read this book, no matter what you think of it, you will never view a street person the same way you have in the past. You will always be looking for Rasputin, for Cassie, for Wizard.

This is a story of a simple Wizard who feeds his pigeons from a bottomless bag of popcorn until the unthinkable happens and the bag, and his magic, is lost. This is a story of a man who lives by instinct, who is frightened, lonely, and does not understand why the system has turned its back on him, why his family did likewise. He does not understand what war did to him, he only knows it changed him, and not for the better.

This story has the voice of Truth about it. Ms. Lindholm did her research, and did it well. Although the story is about a 'Nam vet, it could just as easily be about an Iraq or Afghan vet. Change the name of the war to whatever you want but the story remains the same. The tragedy remains the same. The Magic never leaves. And surprisingly, this book is not a tragedy; it is a book of hope and the joy that comes from facing your fears, your enemy, and acceptance of life. We need more Wizards. After all, someone needs to feed and care for the pigeons.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Yohannes Ishi

Yohannes Ishi –by Nabse Bamato

138 pages /410 KB
3 Stars

This book is, indeed, a light read, and somewhat entertaining. I was captivated enough to read it through to the end, but when I closed the book, I felt it lacked.

It was obvious the author loves Ethiopia, a country I would love to visit sometime. However, I had no sense of Addis Ababa. I would have loved to have seen more of the contrasts between wet/gray sea-level London and dry/sunny mountain-high Addis Ababa. Not just the climate, but the smells, the noise, the streets, the domiciles. Yohannes didn't travel just across the street; he traveled to a different world and even, to a degree, a different time.

I was confused by the Prologue. As I understand it, a Prologue is used to set the story in time and place, perhaps a bit of backstory. In this case, it is not a prologue but an excerpt from a middle chapter. It was confusing. And unnecessary.

I would have liked to have seen him wrestle a bit with the promise his mother made to the Sister at the orphanage that he would grow up to be a doctor, return, and help the people. How did he feel about having his life planned out by his parents? Did he feel guilty when he chose a different path?

Yohannes Ishi seems to just go with the flow through much of his life, seldom taking a stand, or maybe not needing to, but I felt he lacked the backbone to follow through on his final decision. If someone came along and made him a different and perceived better offer, he'd go.

I do recommend this book, even though I am giving it only 3 stars. It is interesting; it gives a bit of an insight into another culture with which I am not familiar. I would LOVE to see the Author do some rewriting to bring in some tension, comparisons, sights, smells, etc. as mentioned above. I would gladly read it again, if the writer did some rework, and I'm confident I would give it a higher rating. Perhaps the author should consider making this a faux memoir? Perhaps written in first person it would then have more immediacy.

Without Fear

Without Fear –by Vincent Alma

Fiction / Teaching Parable
14 pages / 1629 KB
4 Stars

This is not a novel, it is a well-written short story about a farmer who desires above all else to become a knight, and how he goes about attaining that goal, and how it changes his life.

Our hero goes through many trials and tribulations, he first must recognize his enemy and then defeat him as he learns his many lessons. This story could be considered a fable, a fairy tale, or a parable. Perhaps a series of parables within the story as there are several lessons to be learned.

It would make a great manga, or a great illustrated children's book. Although written so children can read and understand it, adults will also enjoy reading it. A perfect book for adults and children to read together and discuss the various lessons our hero learns, how they affect him, and how we might be affected as we learn.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this story by the author and asked for a review.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Great World & A Great Read

A Greater World --by Clare Flynn

Fiction / Historical Romance
334 pages / 610 KB
5 Stars

A friend gave me this book, thinking I would enjoy it. My friend is very astute, and seldom, if ever wrong. ;-)

The story begins in London in 1920 and finishes in Australia 18 years or so later. As a romance, it is fairly predictable; however, Ms. Flynn added layers to the story that made it an enjoyable read. Her research was spot on, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about not just that time period, but that time period in two cultures different from mine.

Elizabeth Morton is the "spinster" of the two sisters, and lives in the family home with her sister and brother-in-law. Their mother is deceased, and father has gone to Australia to rebuild his fortune lost when his wife died. He sends for Elizabeth, telling her he has arranged a marriage for her. Her sister throws her out of the house, and she has no choice but to go, not to marry Mr. Kidd, but to be with her father.

On the boat going over, she meets and falls in love with Michael, but alas, it cannot be. On arrival, she discovers her father has died, and Mr. Kidd, quite literally, bought her to be his wife. Again, she is without resources and goes with her new husband who is verbally and emotionally abusive. She meets two of his children—the youngest boy, of whom she becomes quite fond, the middle daughter who hates her step mother, and eventually the oldest boy who is extremely abusive and the catalyst for the ending.

Set in New South Wales during the Great Depression, this story gives an intimate glimpse into a life I can, at best, imagine. Mr. Kidd, the antagonist of the story becomes, well, let me say that by the end of the book I actually shed a tear or three.

Ms. Flynn is a good writer, her characters are believable, the story is believable, and the book is quite enjoyable. Highly recommended!