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LoraM

Lora's Rants and Reviews

My own unapologetic opinions on books and writing. I DO NOT accept review requests but only review books I choose to read and I don't post reviews on Amazon. I'm also persnickity about genre and plot.

Currently reading

The Victorian Christmas
Anna Selby
Progress: 6%
Occulture: The Unseen Forces That Drive Culture Forward
Carl Abrahamsson, Gary Valentine Lachman
Progress: 15/256pages
Fairies:: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folk
Morgan Daimler
Progress: 85%
Sigil Witchery: A Witch's Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols
Laura Tempest Zakroff
Progress: 7%
Old Celtic Romances
P.W. Joyce
Progress: 3%
Uprooted
Naomi Novik
Progress: 19%
Don Quixote
Roberto González Echevarría, John Rutherford, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Progress: 48%

Captives of the Flame

Captives of the Flame (The Fall of the Towers, #1) - Samuel R. Delany

by Samuel R. Delany

 

Typical early 1960s science fiction.

 

"The Empire of Toromon had finally declared war. The attacks on its planes had been nothing compared to the final insult—the kidnapping of the Crown Prince. The enemy must be dealt with, and when they were, Toromon would be able to get back on its economic feet."

 

Add to this a radiation barrier that leaves a people isolated and an enemy called the Lord of the Flames and you're set up for epic battles and other fun geeky stuff.

 

This is considered the first of a trilogy, but quite honestly it didn't impress me enough to continue. None of the characters stood out for me and apart from an interesting contrast between the rich and the poor, the plot was fairly generic. There's also a mock-Arthurian Fantasy element in the young prince being kidnapped to be trained among the forest guardians to be a good king so the elements of a good story are there, but I found my mind wandering as I read. Somehow it just didn't grip me.

 

Very much a thing of its time.

16 Festive Tasks Update

I have just 3 squares left to complete!

 

 

For square 7 I'll probably get into my foreign recipes.

 

Square 15, I'm reading a science book.

 

Square 16, I'm nearly finished with a book written by someone of African descent.

 

Then maybe some bonus tasks, but I want to fill the card first!

Square 4 Task: treat yourself to a new book - post a picture of it.

"Be thankful for yourself and treat yourself to a new book - post a picture of it."

 

I don't often buy new paperbacks, and never hardbacks. Too expensive! I tend to buy Kindle or used paperbacks depending on which is cheaper.

 

There can be exceptions. I wanted this anthology because - Dragons! And I've read other stuff from four of the authors so I expect it's going to be good. It was the cover art that made me want the paperback. I'd pay the price for an art print! I'll have this on my shelf instead and have the added bonus of something good to read!

 

Dark Carnival

Dark Carnival - Nancy K. Duplechain

by Nancy K. Duplechain

 

Fantasy meets voodoo in New Orleans. Leigh Benoit comes from a family of paladins, people with special abilities who heal the sick and keep dark forces at bay. She is sent to New Orleans for training as a Traiteur, a healer, but she is also caught up in a quest to find a cursed antique mask as time for Mardi Grau draws near.

 

I found this an interesting alternative Fantasy. The paladins have individual 'gifts' in a way that reminded me of X-men, though more subtle. Leigh meets some of her own kind who are friendly and some who are not so friendly, but they have a common quest to stop dark forces. Apart from being followed by a "cute guy" (oh gee, where do you suppose THAT will go?) the story has a lot of original elements that make it a fascinating read.

 

Leigh is likable and no wiser than her nemesis about why she was sent for training when adequate training for what she is meant to do was available at home. There is some other purpose for why she needed to come to New Orleans, which we learn eventually.

 

For the most part, this book really held my attention. There were a couple of places where I thought Leigh and her companions were just a little too lucky in a battle or some really horrific imagery fizzled into nothing, but most of it moved the story along and kept me interested in Leigh's eventual fate.

 

This is one of those gems I sometimes find in the free slush pile, a book I've really enjoyed reading. There is a series, but the book stands alone very well. Some fascinating ideas and alternative ways of using Biblical entities as characters.

Fools and Mortals

Fools and Mortals - Bernard Cornwell

by Bernard Cornwell

 

From the well-known Historical fiction writer is a story about players, actors on the stage, in the time of Elizabeth I. Women were still played by men and the brother of Will Shakespeare, Richard, is continually given women's roles with his brother's company. Between getting to be too old and taking a liking to a servant girl in a great house where they are to perform, Richard tries everything he can think of to get his brother to give him a male role.

 

Themes of dominance between brothers are fully explored in this story and I couldn't help but have sympathy for Richard, who, as a significantly younger brother, is constantly in his brother's shadow.

 

I don't know if Shakespeare really had a brother but I'm not going to look it up. I enjoyed this story and Richard was a likable character. Will Shakespeare came over as a callous, unfeeling brother, most of the time. Whether there i any accuracy to this is anybody's guess.

 

The story gave a good look at the life of players in Shakespeare's time and I found it was my preferred read among several books I've been reading at once. It is undeniably well-written and has plenty of excitement and a few laughs.

First Person

First Person: A novel - Richard Flanagan

by Richard Flanagan

 

Penniless Tasmanian writer Kif Kehlmann is hired to ghost write a memoir for a corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl, in six weeks. His research to write the autobiography takes a frustrating form when his subject is reluctant to answer questions that might only further incriminate him when he's already facing prison.

 

The need for money keeps Kif on board, even when his better judgement tells him to walk away. The story is told in first person, in a style reminiscent of old detective noir, yet portraying a man who was anything but in control of his own destiny.

 

The story takes a while to get to the meat, but slowly Kif starts getting inside the mentality of a professional con man who doesn't really want the actual details of his life story displayed so much as a comfortable fiction that will serve his purposes.

 

As the struggle to glean details goes on, Kif starts to question everything he thinks he knows about his world, even who he is, why he got married, how he feels about having children and why he calls himself a novelist when he's never managed to finish a novel. Worse, Heidl begins to tell the truth.

 

This is a real psychological mind bender that falls into place gradually, the details of what physically happens secondary to the play on perceptions. I found it interesting, but depressing.

First Person

by Richard Flanagan

 

Penniless Tasmanian writer Kif Kehlmann is hired to ghost write a memoir for a corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl, in six weeks. His research to write the autobiography takes a frustrating form when his subject is reluctant to answer questions that might only further incriminate him when he's already facing prison.

 

The need for money keeps Kif on board, even when his better judgement tells him to walk away. The story is told in first person, in a style reminiscent of old detective noir, yet portraying a man who was anything but in control of his own destiny.

 

The story takes a while to get to the meat, but slowly Kif starts getting inside the mentality of a professional con man who doesn't really want the actual details of his life story displayed so much as a comfortable fiction that will serve his purposes.

 

As the struggle to glean details goes on, Kif starts to question everything he thinks he knows about his world, even who he is, why he got married, how he feels about having children and why he calls himself a novelist when he's never managed to finish a novel. Worse, Heidl begins to tell the truth.

 

This is a real psychological mind bender that falls into place gradually, the details of what physically happens secondary to the play on perceptions. I found it interesting, but depressing.

Square 14: I've read 58%.

First Person: A novel - Richard Flanagan

"set in the Southern Hemisphere"

 

One of my Netgalley books is set in Australia. The main character is from Tasmania. :)

 

Do we have any Australians here? I'm just wondering if his name, Kif, is common there.

 

 

Square 16: I've read 9%.

Captives of the Flame (The Fall of the Towers, #1) - Samuel R. Delany

"Read a book written by an author of African descent"

 

 

I don't usually note the racial group or ethnicity of an author. So, after checking books I already planned to read and looking at author pages, I actually Googled authors of African descent. Lucky for me, this author had been recommended in a science fiction group and I was able to get a copy from gutenberg. So far the book seems typical of the era. Not bad really.

 

 

Square 10: Cook something involving olives or olive oil.

This was an easy one. Chicken kebabs are made by mixing kebab spice mix with olive oil and lemon juice then leaving it to marinade. Stir fry with red onion and serve in pita bread with salad or cole slaw, and if you want, add lots and lots of olives! I love black olives in this, though either green or black would work.

 

Square 6 task: Read a book involving children

Children's book: Moshe Comes to Visit: Fun Rhyming book about Overcoming fears and positive thinking - Tehila Sade Moyal, Fatima Pires

This was a cute-ish story told in verse. The rhythm wasn't quite right and the rhymes didn't always work, but the story idea was that a mother berated her son for being afraid of monsters under the bed, then got scared when he made a pet of a cockroach! I'm vetting beginning reading books for a 5-year-old relative, so this worked into my reading.

 

Any suggestions from parents, teachers, etc for beginning readers that are more interesting then Dick and Jane for a girl who like Disney princesses?

Square 5: An anxiously awaited book release

I decided not to get the cat advent calendar. It wasn't cost effective. Instead I've chosen one of the alternative tasks - to tell you about something I'm looking forward to, a new book release!

 

If you've followed me for any length of time you'll know I love time travel stories and follow the Time Shifters series by Shanna Lauffey, the Chronicles of the Harekaiian. The next book has been taking too long!

 

There was a bombshell at the end of episode 7 that has me salivating to find out what happens next. Not a cliffhanger, just a change in things.

 

The author's blog says it's coming soon now. I can't wait!

 

 

Square 9 Task

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke

Grab one of your thickest books off the shelf. Ask a question and then turn to page 40 and read the 9th line of text on that page. Post your results.

 

"Stone leaves and herbs quivered and shook as if tossed in the breeze and some of them so far emulated their vegetable counterparts as to grow."

 

I'm not saying what the question was, but this would be a weird answer, regardless.

 

Square 2: Guy Fawkes Night

Yes the holiday is tonight, but city fireworks always happen on the nearest Saturday.

 

This is the sky at Lewes last night.

 

Ramses the Damned

— feeling mummy
Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra - Anne Rice, Christopher Rice

by Anne & Christopher Rice

 

Curiosity got the better of me on this collaboration. Once upon a time I loved reading Anne Rice's early vampire books and I've enjoyed one book by Christopher Rice (Vines) despite being written in present tense (the ultimate sin).

 

So, I started reading and my first impression was that it had the tone of those early vampire books and that perhaps the collaboration with her son was what Anne needed to get back on track. I started having some doubts when it became overtly sexual and the emphasis on gay sex started to impede the story flow. I don't object to gay sex, but I generally don't want to read about a lot of sex in general. It also dragged in a few places.

 

It's the story of Bektaten (totally fictional) who developed a formula to attain eternal life. The formula comes to Ramses and then the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, making them both immortal. Each of them shared their immortality with a few favorites and conflicts ensue.

 

This isn't, as I had assumed, a new vampire novel. No blood drinking has taken place. The immortality elixer is a new thing, not explored in any previous books I've read by either author, though there are some Ramses books by Anne Rice that I haven't read so this might be a series I just wasn't aware of. The Egyptian theme seems to be a favorite of hers.

 

The important thing is that I was drawn into the story and began to get to know the characters and all their foibles. My sympathies were naturally with Cleopatra, as she's a favorite historical figure, though not the nicest person in this story. I had some problem with keeping secondary characters in context as they weren't as well-defined as they needed to be, but it all fell into place near the end when the significance of their roles comes to fruition.

 

I found it interesting how the story explored concepts of reincarnation and afterlife, encompassing a few different belief systems within the plot and the beliefs of the main characters. The end seemed to drag out a long time, but the loose ends were all tidied up while still leaving room for some of the characters to appear in a new story.

Square 8: Hanukka task

First Person: A novel - Richard Flanagan

I'm trying not to add too many books to my backlog from Bingo. As it happens, I was just finishing up one of the Netgalley books I've had waiting and was about to choose which of the 4 remaining Netgalley books to focus on next. The virtual dreidel task fit right in!

 

So, First Person it is.