Reviews by Writer Dan

Review

Trace the Stars

Trace the Stars

It’s been too long since I read me some short stories. Only one other anthology in the last year, in fact. Yeesh. You’d think I’d been avoiding them purposefully, but that would definitely be incorrect. Anyone out there have a suggestion for some good short fiction I can get my hands on? Something in anthology form and not a collection, if possible (unless it’s really good). Anthologies just give you so much variety that I can’t help but be glad I read them — despite what overall rating I give them — because there’s usually at least a few good ones that will rise to the top. And then I have some good suggestions on new authors to go chase down.

I found out about this one because of an email submission from our contact form. Like, from here on the website. Yeah. See. It does happen. Not very often I’ll grant you. AND, as it happens, I have somewhat of a geographical connection to the anthology. Oh, AND I met Joe at another convention, and he was a cool guy. So there’s that stuff too. Sorry if I got anyone’s hopes up. Anyhow. Time for some shortness. You ready?
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Review

Aftershocks

Aftershocks

I’ve had something on my mind the last couple of months. It’s easy, as a reviewer, to dole out ratings for books. Saying this one is good, and this one is bad, and this one was just kinda meh. It’s also frequently easy to fall into the trap of thinking that every book that is published should be the “best book that it can be”. I’m also an engineer though, and so the old saying that, “If you want to finish the project, you’re going to have to kill the engineer” (meaning that the engineer will keep working on a project for forever until it’s perfect) floats around in my mess of a brain too. I think this has produced somewhat of a scarcity mentality in my head though. Because, honestly, there is a huge market out there for stories that I’m going to think are perfectly mediocre. That don’t ring any of my bells or wave any flags — even lots that don’t ring bells or wave flags for anybody — because some people just like to read something that makes them forget for a time. They don’t even want to think about it very hard. Just read. Now, I’m not exactly one of those kind of people. I expect goodness when I sit down to read. This likely stems from the fact that I read as much as I do, I’m always wanting to read more, and I never feel like I have enough time for it. Which means I don’t like finding anything mediocre about what I’m ingesting. Still, there’s obviously a market for stories like that, and I think this is one of those.
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Review

A Little Hatred

Posted: October 10, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Joe Abercrombie, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy
A Little Hatred

So, it’s been a while since we’ve had a book like this from Abercrombie. Real quick US publication timeline for those of you that aren’t immediately aware: 3 years since Sharp Ends (last short stories), 4 years since Half a War (last YA), 7 years since Red Country (last stand-alone), and 11 years since The Last Argument of Kings (last series book). Thus, I’d be painting the canvas pretty thin indeed if I were to say, for instance, that I was stupid-excited to finally read this thing. I won a contest over at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist back in the day and inherited all three books of the original First Law trilogy, published by Pyr. Was the beginning of my first love affair with the works of Abercrombie. Guy just knows how to do story right, and I was hoping that he’d continue that trend. His response was a little bit “Yes”… and a little bit “No”.
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Review

Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures

A few months ago I hit up a small fantasy and science fiction convention just north of me. The guests of honor were Jim Butcher and Laurell K. Hamilton. Was loads of fun to see both of them. Jim was hilarious and engaging, with a head of long blue hair, and was so much more of a nerd (to my delight) than I figured he’d be. Laurell was calm and collected, had load of insightful comments, and was way shorter than I thought she’d be. Course, I’m no slouch in that department. So, it’s all relative. In the main, I was very impressed by both of them. I came away from that con feeling energized and happy that I’d gone. Near the end, Laurell made a plea in one of her panels for all of us to write reviews of every book we read. They did more good for authors than we realized, she said. Now, granted. The Anita Blake series probably didn’t need another book review done for it. There are plenty enough as it is. But this whole EBR gig is a pretty big part of who I am, and so I went away from that con with the determination to give her a book review. So here it is.
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Review

The Stars are Legion

Posted: September 20, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books We Don't Like Meta: Kameron Hurley, Science Fiction
The Stars are Legion

After the high of reading THE LIGHT BRIGADE (EBR Review), I was really looking forward to diving into some more story from this author. Everywhere I looked, people seemed to be talking about her and how “out there” her stuff is. It’s weird and new and her’s is a voice that needs to be heard. I love imagination and wonder. It’s one of the reasons why I love Science Fiction so much. In fact, it’s probably why I like good Science Fiction even more than good Fantasy. But before any of that, the story has to be well told through some solid characters. Because without those two things, imagination and wonder just don’t matter.
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Review

Dark Age

Posted: September 17, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Pierce Brown, Dystopian SF, Science Fiction
Dark Age

I have been spoiled. Eight hundred pages of sheer story-telling genius have just filtered through the interstices of my gray matter, and now I get to tell you all about the multi-hued and variegated experience of ingesting it all. If you haven’t delved into this particular series yet, it stands to reason that you probably shouldn’t read any further. Spoilers are kind of a given at this stage of the game. You should also go hit Amazon and make up for this lack in judgement. Trust me. You really don’t want to miss out on any more of this guy’s stuff. For you readers/lovers of the series, this is another great one. Let’s go.
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Review

Akata Witch

Akata Witch

Do you know what the biggest problem is for an author trying to write a novel about kids that are caught in the middle of very dangerous events? Parents. Well, adults in general. How do you keep the grown-ups from coming in and hijacking the story completely while still making it all believable. I have a difficult time believing that any story that is told expressly about kids has a more important question to answer. This was a very interesting novel to read, given that perspective. Because on the one hand, this story totally has adults “dealing with the important stuff”, but on the other hand, there are also several adults that are more than willing to throw children into deadly situations, shrug their shoulders, and say, “If they live, they live. If they don’t, they don’t.” Was an interesting dichotomy to try and swallow, and not the only one I found in this read.
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Review

The Light Brigade

Posted: August 27, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books We Love Meta: Kameron Hurley, Military SF, Science Fiction
The Light Brigade

Every once in a while I go to the library looking for books. It seems somewhat ludicrous that between all of the books that I really want to read, and all of the others that publishers/agents/etc send to us, that I could ever find time to read something I found at a library. And yet, I do. Because I’ve found that I’ll still occasionally find something that pushes my buttons. In my profile for the site, I mention that I have no patience for “plots that don’t grab by the throat, the heart, or the funny bone”. Yeah. I judge. So anyways, I was walking through the library this one fine day, saw this book, and thought the cover art was pretty intriguing. So I picked it up. Then I opened the cover, flipped through the first couple sheets, and came across a nearly blank page with a single statement printed near the top:

“Don’t just fight the darkness. Bring the light.”

Instantly I found that both my heart and my throat had been grabbed. My decision had been made and another book added to my TBR list.
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Review

Children of Blood and Bone

Posted: August 20, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books that are Mediocre Meta: Tomi Adeyemi, Fantasy, Heroic Fantasy
Children of Blood and Bone

I think there are a lot of readers these days that are “coming to an awareness” of the fact that there are considerably more books written by people that belong to neither the male half nor the white portion of the world’s population. Whether they’ve come to that realization by dint of the more vocal portion of the reader/authorship populace, or just because of their own level of self-awareness, I think that it’s by-and-large a good thing. At least, if they decide to do anything about it. I’ve always been one to share my opinion that I’m a staunch supporter of this widening of our story-source base. At the same time, however, I do my best to never pull any punches expressly because of who the author of a book is or what they’ve decided to write about. If a story is good, I’ll crow about it. If I feel like it let me down, I’m going to say so. And why. I am trying to review these things, after all, right?

This book is the first of my concerted efforts to make sure that the books I choose to read are “diverse” enough. Prior to this point, I just plainly never paid attention. I read what I was given. Granted, there were definitely times when I steered away from cliched-sounding YA or those that looked like they were going to be primarily romantic in nature, but that was about the extent of my filtering. The decision to diversify my reading choices will by no means keep me from passing by a book that just doesn’t sound interesting, regardless of who wrote the thing. It will, however, encourage me to make sure that I’m looking for options that will widen my view of what is currently being written in today’s publication sphere. I know there are going to be some of our readers that will groan at this, and some that crow. I hope to be able to both disappoint and please all of you in turns and become better overall as a result. Wish me luck.
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Review

Reincarnation Blues

Posted: July 23, 2019 by Writer Dan in Books We Don't Like Meta: Michael Poore, Fantasy
Reincarnation Blues

Had this one sitting on my shelf at home for quite a while. Picked it up to try and read a few times, and ended up putting it back down again. I finally decided that I was going to punch this one out though, as there were so many great reviews for it on Amazon. Wish I’d just listened to my first impressions of the opening sequence and forgotten the whole thing. Realistically, I should have been put off by the fact that the title includes the moniker: A novel. That’s pretty much always a dead giveaway that a book’s going to be exactly the kind of item to disappoint me.
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